In a new article for Nature Communication, scientists Gelareh Zadeh and Ken Aldape explain that radiation given during childhood cancer treatments causes DNA to rearrange. This rearrangement of DNA can then lead to menigiomas.
The team took radiation-induced meningiomas (RIMs) and meningiomas that appear sporadically in the general population and compared and contrasted the biology of the two.
Dr Zadeh clarifies the difference between these two tumours, "Radiation-induced meningiomas appear the same on MRI and pathology, feel the same during surgery and look the same under the operating microscope. What's different is they are more aggressive, tend to recur in multiples and invade the brain, causing significant morbidity and limitations…"
Researchers analysed RIMs from children that had received varying doses of radiation for either leukaemia or paediatric brain cancer. They found that RIMs developed no matter what level of radiation was used.
The study has discovered that rearrangements involving the NF2 gene cause RIMs. There are likely more genetic rearrangements that are taking place. The next goal will be to look into the DNA of the meninges, the membranes that envelop the brain, to discover what is happening there as a result of the radiation.
Dr. Aldape adds "It is an important clinical problem because it presents a paradoxical dilemma that while cranial-spinal radiation is needed to cure many childhood cancers, an unfortunate consequence is that 10-to-15-years following radiation treatment some survivors develop meningiomas."
The goal is to identify a strategy that can be applied early on after childhood radiation to prevent the growth of RIMs. It also identifies a subset of patients that are at high risk of developing this cancer and subsequently can be monitored for life-saving early detection and management.