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J Neurosurg. 2015 Feb;122(2):324-30. doi: 10.3171/2014.9.JNS132253. Epub 2014 Nov 14.

Stem cell signature in glioblastoma: therapeutic development for a moving target.

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Department of Neurological Surgery, James Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.


Tumor heterogeneity of adult high-grade glioma (HGG) is recognized in 3 major subtypes based on core gene signatures. However, the molecular signatures and clinical implications of glioma stem cells (GSCs) in individual HGG subtypes remain poorly characterized. Recently genome-wide transcriptional analysis identified two mutually exclusive GSC subtypes with distinct dysregulated signaling and metabolic pathways. Analysis of genetic profiles and phenotypic assays distinguished proneural (PN) from mesenchymal (MES) GSCs and revealed a striking correlation with the corresponding PN or MES HGGs. Similar to HGGs with a MES signature, MES GSCs display more aggressive phenotypes both in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, MES GSCs are markedly resistant to radiation as compared with PN GSCs, consistent with the relative radiation resistance of MES GBM compared with other subtypes. A systems biology approach has identified a set of transcription factors as the master regulators for the MES signature. Metabolic reprogramming in MES GSCs has also been noticed with the prominent activation of the glycolytic pathway, comprising aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) family genes. This review summarizes recent progress in the characterization of the molecular signature in distinct HGG and GSC subtypes and plasticity between different GSC subtypes as well as between GSCs and non-GSCs in HGG tumors. Clinical implications of the translational GSC research are also discussed.


ALDH = aldehyde dehydrogenase; CIMP = CpG island methylator phenotype; CSC = cancer stem cell; EMT = epithelial-mesenchymal transition; GBM; GBM = glioblastoma; GSC = glioma stem cell; HGG = high-grade glioma; MES = mesenchymal; NSC = neural stem cell; PN = proneural; brain tumor; cancer stem cells; clonal evolution; mesenchymal; oncology; tumor heterogeneity

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