New research from Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital offers an exciting area for understanding brain tumor development. Dr. Jason A. Ellis, MD of the Neurosurgery residency program, as well as Dr. Jeffrey N. Bruce, MD and Dr. Alfred T. Ogden, MD of the department of Neurosurgery collaborated with a team to study the effect of location on tumor type. The researchers’ efforts produced intriguing results.
Laboratory investigations have shown that specific viruses can cause glioma formation in animals. Gliomas are tumors that arise from specific cells, called glial cells, in the brain and spinal cord. They can develop into a variety of tumors, some malignant and some benign. Tumor types were consistently determined by their location throughout the study.
Even more interesting, it did not matter if the virus used in this research came from a glioma in brain or spinal cord tissue. “The microenvironment in which glioma cells (or cells with the potential to become glioma cells) grow and divide provides powerful signals that promote tumorigenesis. This finding suggests that it is not solely the tumor causing agent that determines what type of tumor will develop, but its environment,” explains Dr. Ellis, lead author of the study.
This opens the door for further research into specific characteristics of the “microenvironment” of tumors – the chemicals and molecules that surround the tumor. Understanding aspects of the microenvironment that influence tumor type may allow the development of treatments to manipulate those factors for the patient’s benefit. As Dr. Ellis explains, “Future studies in human gliomas may confirm this result and greatly expand our understanding of how these devastating tumors arise. It is our hope that such an understanding will ultimately lead to better treatments for brain and spinal cord gliomas in the near future.”
Public domain image courtesy of Blondis via Wikimedia Commons.