Several genetic drivers of glioblastomas – malignant brain tumors – are reported in an article published online this week in Nature Genetics. These discoveries shed light on how these tumors develop and suggest possible treatment options for a subset of glioblastoma patients.
Glioblastoma is difficult to treat and usually associated with poor clinical outcomes. Antonio Iavarone and colleagues used a new computational platform to identify recurrent genetic changes in a large collection of glioblastoma samples. They identified several genes targeted by recurrent alterations in glioblastoma and showed that some of these altered genes influence the growth properties of glioma cells. One notable set of recurrent alterations involved the EGFR gene, which encodes a positive regulator of cell growth implicated in several cancers. Importantly, cells expressing these altered forms of EGFR protein were sensitive to treatment with EGFR inhibitors, which could lead to more effective therapies for patients carrying these rearrangements.