Genetic alterations and signaling pathways in the evolution of gliomas

Cancer Sci. 2009 Dec;100(12):2235-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2009.01308.x. Epub 2009 Aug 6.


Gliomas are the most common primary brain tumors. They account for more than 70% of all neoplasms of the central nervous system and vary considerably in morphology, location, genetic alterations, and response to therapy. Most frequent and malignant are glioblastomas. The vast majority (>90%) develops rapidly after a short clinical history and without evidence of a less malignant precursor lesion (primary or de novo glioblastoma). Secondary glioblastomas develop more slowly through progression from low-grade or anaplastic astrocytoma. These glioblastoma subtypes constitute distinct disease entities that affect patients of different age, develop through distinct genetic pathways, show different RNA and protein expression profiles, and may differ in their response to radio- and chemotherapy. Recently, isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) mutations have been identified as a very early and frequent genetic alteration in the pathway to secondary glioblastomas as well as that in oligodendroglial tumors, providing the first evidence that low-grade astrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas may share common cells of origin. In contrast, primary glioblastomas very rarely contain IDH1 mutations, suggesting that primary and secondary glioblastomas may originate from different progenitor cells, despite the fact that they are histologically largely indistinguishable. In this review, we summarize the current status of genetic alterations and signaling pathways operative in the evolution of astrocytic and oligodendroglial tumors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / physiology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Glioma / etiology*
  • Glioma / genetics
  • Glioma / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isocitrate Dehydrogenase / physiology
  • Loss of Heterozygosity
  • Mutation*
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / physiology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / physiology
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p14ARF / physiology
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / physiology


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p14ARF
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Isocitrate Dehydrogenase
  • IDH1 protein, human
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase