Cost of migration: Invasion of malignant gliomas and implications for treatment

Alf Giese*, R. Bjerkvig, M. E. Berens, M. Westphal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

964 Citations (Scopus)


Tumors of glial origin consist of a core mass and a penumbra of invasive, single cells, decreasing in numbers towards the periphery and still detectable several centimeters away from the core lesion. Several decades ago, the diffuse nature of malignant gliomas was recognized by neurosurgeons when super-radical resections using hemispherectomies failed to eradicate these tumors. Local invasiveness eventually leads to regrowth of a recurrent tumor predominantly adjacent to the resection cavity, which is not significantly altered by radiation or chemotherapy. This raises the question of whether invasive glioma cells activate cellular programs that render these cells resistant to conventional treatments. Clinical and experimental data demonstrate that glioma invasion is determined by several independent mechanisms that facilitate the spread of these tumors along different anatomic and molecular structures. A common denominator of this cellular behavior may be cell motility. Gene-expression profiling showed upregulation of genes related to motility, and functional studies demonstrated that cell motility contributes to the invasive phenotype of malignant gliomas. There is accumulating evidence that invasive glioma cells show a decreased proliferation rate and a relative resistance to apoptosis, which may contribute to chemotherapy and radiation resistance. Interestingly, interference with cell motility by different strategies results in increased susceptibility to apoptosis, indicating that this dynamic relationship can potentially be exploited as an anti-invasive treatment paradigm. In this review, we discuss mechanisms of glioma invasion, characteristics of the invasive cell, and consequences of this cellular phenotype for surgical resection, oncologic treatments, and future perspectives for anti-invasive strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1624-1636
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


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