Malignant gliomas are the most common primary brain tumors. Despite efforts to find effective treatments, these tumors remain incurable. The failure of malignant gliomas to respond to conventional cancer therapies may reflect the unique biology of these tumors, underscoring the need for new approaches in their investigation. Recently, progress has been made in characterization of the molecular pathogenesis of glioblastoma using a developmental neurobiological perspective, by exploring the role of signaling pathways that control the differentiation of neural stem cells along the glial lineage. The transcription factor STAT3, which has an established function in neural stem cell and astrocyte development, has been found to play dual tumor suppressive and oncogenic roles in glial malignancy depending on the mutational profile of the tumor. These findings establish a novel developmental paradigm in the study of glioblastoma pathogenesis and provide the rationale for patient-tailored therapy in the treatment of this devastating disease.
Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, 77 Ave Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA 02115, USA.