Diffuse midline glioma (DMG) is a deadly pediatric and adolescent central nervous system (CNS) tumor localized along the midline structures of the brain atop the spinal cord. With a median overall survival (OS) of just 9-11-months, DMG is characterized by global hypomethylation of histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27me3), driven by recurring somatic mutations in H3 genes including, HIST1H3B/C (H3.1K27M) or H3F3A (H3.3K27M), or through overexpression of EZHIP in patients harboring wildtype H3. The recent World Health Organization's 5th Classification of CNS Tumors now designates DMG as, 'H3 K27-altered', suggesting that global H3K27me3 hypomethylation is a ubiquitous feature of DMG and drives devastating transcriptional programs for which there are no treatments. H3-alterations co-segregate with various other somatic driver mutations, highlighting the high-level of intertumoral heterogeneity of DMG. Furthermore, DMG is also characterized by very high-level intratumoral diversity with tumors harboring multiple subclones within each primary tumor. Each subclone contains their own combinations of driver and passenger lesions that continually evolve, making precision-based medicine challenging to successful execute. Whilst the intertumoral heterogeneity of DMG has been extensively investigated, this is yet to translate to an increase in patient survival. Conversely, our understanding of the non-genomic factors that drive the rapid growth and fatal nature of DMG, including endogenous and exogenous microenvironmental influences, neurological cues, and the posttranscriptional and posttranslational architecture of DMG remains enigmatic or at best, immature. However, these factors are likely to play a significant role in the complex biological sequelae that drives the disease. Here we summarize the heterogeneity of DMG and emphasize how analysis of the posttranslational architecture may improve treatment paradigms. We describe factors that contribute to treatment response and disease progression, as well as highlight the potential for pharmaco-proteogenomics (i.e., the integration of genomics, proteomics and pharmacology) in the management of this uniformly fatal cancer.
© 2021. The Author(s).