Sept. 22, 2004 | Neurosurgery researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) may have opened a window to the future by looking at genetics to determine if benign tumors will eventually become cancerous. Their research was the cover article of the August Journal of Neurosurgery.
Ossama Al-Mefty, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery, led the research for the article, “Malignant progression in meningioma: documentation of a series and analysis of cytogenetic findings.” The study challenges the most prevailing theory on the development of cancer, which has been accepted for at least two decades.
Meningiomas are tumors that originate from membrane-like structures surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas are benign, or non-cancerous, but some tumors progress to a malignant, or cancerous, state. By studying the chromosomes of several meningiomas at various stages, Al-Mefty determined there were early genetic changes that predicts the tumor’s future malignant potential, even though the changes were not noticeable on the tumor tissue under the microscope.
“What was surprising is that the bad gene was there from the very beginning,” Al-Mefty said. Currently, clonal evolution – a universally accepted multistep progression model – theorizes that a tumor will start out benign but evolve into malignancy as it accumulates genetic mutation. In Al-Mefty’s study, deletions of significant chromosomes were found in cell samples taken while the tumors were determined by all other tests to be benign.
“By testing on a genetic level to determine if tumors are predisposed to become malignant, physicians can pursue much more aggressive treatments, which may lead to better outcomes for our patients,” Al-Mefty said. “It is truly an honor for our research to be featured so prominently in the Journal of Neurosurgery, where it will be viewed and discussed by our colleagues.”
Images from the articles were used on the journal’s cover. Al-Mefty was also the August guest editor for “Neurosurgical Focus,” a Web-based publication hosted by the Journal of Neurosurgery.
Other UAMS researchers contributing to the article were: Paulo Abdo do Seixo Kadri, M.D., a research fellow from Brazil; Svetlana Pravdenkova, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor of neurosurgery in the College of Medicine; Jeffrey R. Sawyer, Ph.D., professor of pathology in the College of Medicine and director of the UAMS Cytogenetics Laboratory; Colin Stangeby, senior technologist in the Cytogenetics Laboratory; and Muhammad Husian, M.D., associate professor of pathology in the College of Medicine.
Journal of Neurosurgery http://www.thejns-net.org/
Al-Mefty’s article http://www.thejns-net.org/jns/issues/current/pdf/n1010210.pdf
Neurosurgical Focus http://www.aans.org/education/journal/neurosurgical/
UAMS Department of Neurosurgery http://www.uams.edu/medcenter/clinics/neuros.asp