Systemic metastasis in glioblastoma may represent the emergence of neoplastic subclones
Glioblastomas only rarely metastasize to sites outside the central nervous system, for reasons that are poorly understood. We report the clinicopathological and molecular genetic findings in 6 patients with metastatic glioblastoma. Four patients were under the age of 32 and all but 1 patient died within 2 yr of diagnosis. The number of metastases ranged from 1 to 3. At the time of death, 3 patients had apparent tumor control at their primary site. We evaluated DNA from both primary and metastatic glioblastomas for genetic alterations commonly found in glioblastomas: TP53 mutations, CDKN2A/p16 deletions, EGFR amplification, and allelic loss of chromosomes 1p, 10q and 19q. Four of 6 cases had TP53 mutations and only single cases had EGFR amplification, CDKN2A/p16 deletions, or allelic loss of 1p, 10q and 19q; 2 cases had no detectable genetic alterations. In 2 cases, the primary and metastatic tumors had identical genotypes. Remarkably, however, 2 cases had different TP53 alterations in the primary and metastatic lesions, or among the metastatic tumors, which suggests that some metastatic deposits may represent emergence of subclones that were not necessarily dominant in the primary tumor. The present observations and a review of the recent literature demonstrate that metastatic glioblastomas tend to occur in younger adults who do not follow long clinical courses, and may be characterized by TP53 mutations and differential clonal selection.