Global activation of oncogenic pathways underlies therapy resistance in diffuse midline glioma

M. M. Georgescu, M. Z. Islam, Y. Li, M. L. Circu, J. Traylor, C. M. Notarianni, C. N. Kline, D. K. Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Diffuse midline gliomas (DMGs) are aggressive pediatric brain tumors with dismal prognosis due to therapy-resistant tumor growth and invasion. We performed the first integrated histologic/genomic/proteomic analysis of 21 foci from three pontine DMG cases with supratentorial dissemination. Histone H3.3-K27M was the driver mutation, usually at high variant allele fraction due to recurrent chromosome 1q copy number gain, in combination with germline variants in ATM, FANCM and MYCN genes. Both previously reported and novel recurrent copy number variations and somatic pathogenic mutations in chromatin remodeling, DNA damage response and PI3K/MAPK growth pathways were variably detected, either in multiple or isolated foci. Proteomic analysis showed global upregulation of histone H3, lack of H3-K27 trimethylation, and further impairment of polycomb repressive complex 2 by ASXL1 downregulation. Activation of oncogenic pathways resulted from combined upregulation of N-MYC, SOX2, p65/p50 NF-κB and STAT3 transcription factors, EGFR, FGFR2, PDGFRα/β receptor tyrosine kinases, and downregulation of PHLPP1/2, PTEN and p16/INK4A tumor suppressors. Upregulation of SMAD4, PAI-1, CD44, and c-SRC in multiple foci most likely contributed to invasiveness. This integrated comprehensive analysis revealed a complex spatiotemporal evolution in diffuse intrisic pontine glioma, recommending pontine and cerebellar biopsies for accurate populational genetic characterization, and delineated common signaling pathways and potential therapeutic targets. It also revealed an unsuspected activation of a multitude of oncogenic pathways, including cancer cell reprogramming, explaining the resistance of DMG to current therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111
JournalActa Neuropathologica Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 17 2020


  • Diffuse midline glioma, Autopsy, Next generation sequencing (NGS), Copy number variation (CNV), Proteomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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