Genetic predisposition to longer telomere length and risk of childhood, adolescent and adult-onset ependymoma

Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2020 Oct 28;8(1):173. doi: 10.1186/s40478-020-01038-w.


Ependymoma is the third most common brain tumor in children, with well-described molecular characterization but poorly understood underlying germline risk factors. To investigate whether genetic predisposition to longer telomere length influences ependymoma risk, we utilized case-control data from three studies: a population-based pediatric and adolescent ependymoma case-control sample from California (153 cases, 696 controls), a hospital-based pediatric posterior fossa type A (EPN-PF-A) ependymoma case-control study from Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (83 cases, 332 controls), and a multicenter adult-onset ependymoma case-control dataset nested within the Glioma International Case-Control Consortium (GICC) (103 cases, 3287 controls). In the California case-control sample, a polygenic score for longer telomere length was significantly associated with increased risk of ependymoma diagnosed at ages 12-19 (P = 4.0 × 10-3), but not with ependymoma in children under 12 years of age (P = 0.94). Mendelian randomization supported this observation, identifying a significant association between genetic predisposition to longer telomere length and increased risk of adolescent-onset ependymoma (ORPRS = 1.67; 95% CI 1.18-2.37; P = 3.97 × 10-3) and adult-onset ependymoma (PMR-Egger = 0.042), but not with risk of ependymoma diagnosed before age 12 (OR = 1.12; 95% CI 0.94-1.34; P = 0.21), nor with EPN-PF-A (PMR-Egger = 0.59). These findings complement emerging literature suggesting that augmented telomere maintenance is important in ependymoma pathogenesis and progression, and that longer telomere length is a risk factor for diverse nervous system malignancies.

Keywords: Ependymoma; Mendelian randomization; Pediatric cancer; Telomere length.

Publication types

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