Researchers from the University College London (UCL) Cancer Institute have provided important molecular understanding of how injury may contribute to the development of a relatively rare but often aggressive form of brain tumour called a glioma.
Previous studies have suggested a possible link between head injury and increased rates of brain tumors, but the evidence is inconclusive. The UCL team have now identified a possible mechanism to explain this link, implicating genetic mutations acting in concert with brain tissue inflammation to change the behavior of cells, making them more likely to become cancerous. Although this study was largely carried out in mice, it suggests that it would be important to explore the relevance of these findings to human gliomas.
The study was led by Professor Simona Parrinello (UCL Cancer Institute), Head of the Samantha Dickson Brain Cancer Unit and co-lead of the Cancer Research UK Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence. She said: “Our research suggests that a brain trauma may contribute to an increased risk of developing brain cancer in later life.”
Gliomas are brain tumors that often arise in neural stem cells. More mature types of brain cells, such as astrocytes, have been considered less likely to give rise to tumors. However, recent findings have demonstrated that after injury astrocytes can exhibit stem cell behavior again.