Molecular biology of malignant gliomas

Clin Transl Oncol. 2006 Sep;8(9):635-41. doi: 10.1007/s12094-006-0033-9.


Gliomas are the most common primary brain tumours. In keeping with the degree of aggressiveness, gliomas are divided into four grades, with different biological behaviour. Furthermore, as different gliomas share a predominant histological appearance, the final classification includes both, histological features and degree of malignancy. For example, gliomas of astrocytic origin (astrocytomas) are classified into pilocytic astrocytoma (grade I), astrocytoma (grade II), anaplastic astrocytoma (grade III) and glioblastoma multiforme (GMB) (grade IV). Tumors derived from oligodendrocytes include grade II (oliogodendrogliomas) and grade III neoplasms (oligoastrocytoma). Each subtype has a specific prognosis that dictates the clinical management. In this regard, a patient diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma totally removed has 10-15 years of potential survival. On the opposite site, patients carrying a glioblastoma multiforme usually die within the first year after the diagnosis is made. Therefore, different approaches are needed in each case. Obviously, prognosis and biological behaviour of malignant gliomas are closely related and supported by the different molecular background that possesses each type of glioma. Furthermore, the ability that allows several low-grade gliomas to progress into more aggressive tumors has allowed cancer researchers to elucidate several pathways implicated in molecular biology of these devastating tumors. In this review, we describe classical pathways involved in human malignant gliomas with special focus with recent advances, such as glioma stem-like cells and expression patterns from microarray studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Central Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Glioma / genetics*
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Signal Transduction