Volume 171 of the series Recent Results in Cancer Research pp 3-24

Astrocytic Tumors

  • Markus J. RiemenschneiderAffiliated withInstitute of Neuropathology, University of Düsseldorf Email author 
  • , Guido ReifenbergerAffiliated withInstitute of Neuropathology, University of Düsseldorf

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Astrocytic gliomas are the most common primary brain tumors and account for up to two thirds of all tumors of glial origin. In this review we outline the basic histological and epidemiological aspects of the different astrocytoma subtypes in adults. In addition, we summarize the key genetic alterations that have been attributed to astrocytoma patho-genesis and progression. Recent progress has been made by interpreting genetic alterations in a pathway-related context so that they can be directly targeted by the application of specific inhibitors. Also, the first steps have been taken in refining classical histopathological diagnosis by use of molecular predictive markers, for example, MGMT promoter hypermethylation in glioblastomas. Progress in this direction will be additionally accelerated by the employment of high-throughput profiling techniques, such as array-CGH and gene expression profiling. Finally, the tumor stem cell hypothesis has chal lenged our way of understanding astrocytoma biology by emphasizing intratumoral heteroge neity. Novel animal models will provide us with the opportunity to comprehensively study this multilayered disease and explore novel thera peutic approaches in vivo.