Genetic Variations Boost Brain Tumor Risk

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Common genetic variations spread across five genes raise a person's risk of developing the most frequent type of brain tumor, an international research team reports online in Nature Genetics.

"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," says co-senior author Melissa Bondy, Ph.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Epidemiology

The genetic variations identified are the first glioma risk factors of any type identified in a large study.

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Bondy and colleagues expect their findings eventually to help identify people most at risk for the disease and to provide potential targets for treatment or prevention.

For Bondy, the findings are particularly gratifying. "I've been collecting families and case studies since the early 90s," she says. "We have only just begun to understand the causes of brain tumors. Our findings give reasons for hope for those who might be affected and an incentive for a more comprehensive investigation of what has been a mysterious disorder."

Gliomas, deadly tumors that form in the supportive tissue of the brain and spine, account for about 80% of all primary malignant brain tumors, with about 22,000 new cases and 13,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Investigators at the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom were co-leaders on the study, which also included teams from France, Germany and Sweden.

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