Glioblastoma multiforme is not a single disease but appears to be four distinct molecular subtypes, according to a study by the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network. Also differing according to subtype was the response to aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.
The research team noted in a news release that though the findings do not affect current clinical practice, it is likely that the results would lead to more personalized and tailored approaches according to a patient's genomic alterations.
In the study, published in Cancer Cell, the researchers expanded on previous studies, which had established gene expression profiling as a means to identify distinct subgroups of GBM.
“We discovered a bundle of events that unequivocally occur almost exclusively within a subtype,” said lead author D. Neil Hayes, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “These are critical events in the history of the tumor's development and spread, and evidence is increasing that they may relate to the initial formation of the tumors.”
The nature of these events indicate that the underlying pathology of each subtype may begin from different types of cells, the researchers explained. This may provide a better understanding of which cell types undergo changes that ultimately drive initial cancer formation.
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