New research finds unpredictable evolution in brain tumours

When brain tumours are treated with radiation or chemotherapy their cells evolve in a way that appears to be random, according to research published today in Nature.

The findings help explain why diffuse glioma is one of the most difficult cancers to treat and could help to identify more effective treatment strategies for patients worldwide.

Diffuse glioma is the most common malignant brain tumour in adults, with 2,500 adults diagnosed in the UK every year.

An international team of 87 researchers and clinicians have published the largest time series database of glioma tumour profiles to date, with samples from 222 patients at 35 hospitals across Europe, Asia, Australia and the USA.

Co-author Dr Lucy Stead, from the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine, said: “These findings show why gliomas are so hard to treat. In other cancers, cells with certain mutations were found to resist treatment, and discovering those mutations allowed new drugs to be developed. Unfortunately, in glioma, where tumour regrowth after treatment is almost universal, we have not found any such mutations.