The cellular origin for malignant glioma and prospects for clinical advancements

Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2012 May;12(4):383-94. doi: 10.1586/erm.12.30.


Glioma remains incurable despite great advancements in medicine. Targeting the cell of origin for gliomas could bring great hope for patients. However, as a collection of diverse diseases, each subtype of glioma could derive from a distinct cell of origin. To resolve such a complex problem, one must use multiple research approaches to gain deep insights. Here we review current evidence regarding the cell of origin from clinical observations, whole-genome molecular pathology and glioma animal models. We conclude that neural stem cells, glial progenitors (including oligodendrocyte progenitor cells) and astrocytes could all serve as cells of origin for gliomas, and that cells incurring initial mutations (cells of mutation) might not transform, while their progeny cells could instead transform and act as cells of origin. Further studies with multidisciplinary approaches are needed to link each subtype to a particular cell of origin, and to develop effective therapies that target the signaling network within these cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Glioma / genetics
  • Glioma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Mutation