An international research team is reporting online in Nature Genetics that common genetic variations spread across five genes raise a person's risk of developing the most frequent type of brain tumor.
Genetic risk factors identified by the research team, led by scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom, also are the first glioma risk factors of any type identified in a large study.
"This is a ground-breaking study because it's the first time we've had a large enough sample to understand the genetic risk factors related to glioma, which opens the door to understanding a possible cause of these brain tumors," said co-senior author Melissa Bondy, Ph.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Epidemiology.
Gliomas, deadly tumors that form in the supportive tissue of the brain and spine, account for about 80 percent of all primary malignant brain tumors, with about 22,000 new cases annually in the United States and 13,000 deaths. They include astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas and glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive, deadly and common glioma in adults.
Risk rises with each variation
The top variations in each of the five genes individually raise a person's glioma risk by 18, 24, 27, 28 and 36 percent over someone without the variations. The team found the effects are independent of one another, so risk escalates with the number of genes involved. People with eight or more of the 14 risk variations discovered on the five genes have a three-fold risk of developing glioma.