Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of nihpaAbout Author manuscriptsSubmit a manuscriptHHS Public Access; Author Manuscript; Accepted for publication in peer reviewed journal;
Fam Cancer. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 September 1.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2922430

Survey of familial glioma and role of germline p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 mutation


There is increasing recognition of familial propensity to glioma as a distinct clinical entity beyond a few rare syndromes; however its genetic basis is poorly understood. The role of p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 mutations in sporadic glioma provides a strong rationale for investigating germline mutations in these genes as a cause of familial glioma. To survey the familial glioma phenotype and examine the contribution of germline mutation in p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 to the disease we have analyzed a series of 101 index familial cases collected through the GLIOGENE Consortium ( There was little evidence for within family correlations for tumour histology, suggesting generic susceptibility to glial tumors. We did not detect any functional mutations in p16INK4A or p14ARF. One index case with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) diagnosed at age 54 and had a family history comprised of a paternal aunt with GBM at age 55, carried the p53 R158H mutation, which is predicted to be functional and has previously been implicated as a cause of Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Our findings provide no evidence that p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 mutations contribute significantly to familial glioma.

Keywords: p16INK4A/p14ARF, p53, mutation, familial glioma


Gliomas are central nervous system neoplasms derived from glial cells and are comprised of astrocytomas, glioblastoma multiforme, oligodendrogliomas, and ependymomas. Gliomas account for ~80% of malignant primary brain tumors (PBT) and in the US ~21,000 individuals are diagnosed with glioma annually(1). Most gliomas are unfortunately associated with a dismal prognosis despite surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. While the only lifestyle exposure consistently linked to an increased risk of glioma is ionizing radiation, familial aggregation of the disease is well recognized with ~6% of patients having an affected relative. It is important to understand the basis of the glioma clustering in families for clinical management of glioma patients and their families.

In rare cases gliomas can arise in the context of single gene disorders, which include neurofibromatosis (MIM 162200), tuberous sclerosis (MIM 191100), Li-Fraumeni (MIM 151623) and Turcot’s (MIM 276300) syndromes. These syndromes are, however, rare and collectively likely a priori to make a minor contribution to the 2-fold increased risk of glioma seen in first-degree relatives of patients(2).

The role of mutation in p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 in sporadic glioma, coupled with the role of germline mutation as a basis of cancer predisposition, has provided a strong rationale for a number of researchers to evaluate the role of germline mutation in these genes as a basis for non-syndromic familial glioma(38). Most of the studies published to date have been based on small sample sizes with limited power to robustly assess the contribution of mutations in these genes to familial glioma.

In 2004 at the Brain Tumor Epidemiology Consortium biannual meeting, we established GLIOGENE, an international consortium whose overarching goal is to ascertain and study glioma families(9). GLIOGENE now involves multiple research groups in North America, Europe, and Israel and through this initiative a unique resource of glioma families has been established.

To survey familial glioma and provide a more complete examination of the contribution of germline mutation in p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 to familial glioma we have analyzed a series of 101 index familial cases collected through GLIOGENE.



As gliomas are uncommon tumors in the general population we defined a family as having a predisposition to glioma if two or more individuals within the kindred had been diagnosed with a glial tumor. Under this definition we ascertained 101 families through the International GLIOGENE Consortium(9), which had not been the subject of previous molecular analyses. All 101 index patients had a histologically proven diagnosis of glioma and diagnosis of glioma in relatives has been established through reference to medical records or cancer registrations. Tables 1 and and22 summarize the number of affected individuals within each family, the age and diagnosis at presentation.

Table 1
Summary of glioma families studied
Table 2
Summary of the pathological classification of glioma in index patients and affected relatives

All biological samples were obtained from patients with informed consent and relevant local institutional review board (IRB) approval in accordance with the tenets of the declaration of Helsinki.

Mutational analysis

A search for mutations in the coding regions and splice sites of p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 was performed by sequencing amplified PCR fragments using BigDye Terminator chemistry implemented on an ABI 3730xl sequencer (Applied Biosystems, CA, USA). PCR primers were designed using Primer 3 software to facilitate the investigation of all intron-exon boundaries (Supplementary Table 1). Sequence traces were aligned and compared to the gene consensus sequence using Mutation Surveyor (Version 3.0; SoftGenetics, PA, USA). Two in silico algorithms, PolyPhen and SIFT were used to predict the putative impact of missense variants on protein function. Scores were classified as tolerated, borderline or deleterious according to proposed criteria. Comparison of observed frequencies of sequence variants with those documented by dbSNP were performed using test for difference of two Binomial proportions as implemented in StatXact-7 (Cytel Studio, version 7.0.0).


Thirty of the 101 kindreds (30%) had three or more family members affected by glioma. Only one of the families had six affected family members (Table 1). In 3 families melanoma had been diagnosed in 3 relatives (3%). In one family a relative with GBM was noted to have developed pancreatic cancer. In two of the families the constellation of cancer suggested the possibility of the Li-Fraumeni syndrome: In one family two relatives had been diagnosed with breast cancer, at ages 56 and 39, and one relative diagnosed with sarcoma at age 30. In the other family the father had been diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma at age 61 years and the index patient’s son diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma at 2 years of age (Table 1). In three families single relatives had been diagnosed with meningiomas (3%); these families had no distinguishing features.

In view of differences in the histological lineages of glial tumors we examined for concordance between pathologies in families; there was however little evidence for within family correlations suggesting generic susceptibility to glial tumors (Table 1).

Familial disease can be associated with earlier age of onset, indicative of genetic susceptibility. Ages at diagnosis of glioma in both index cases and relatives were similar to that observed in population based series(10) (Table 2). While a higher proportion of index cases were female, no significant sex differences were seen in affected relatives. Glioma tends to affect more males than females in the general population(1), hence the differences we observed may reflect ascertainment bias from the greater participation of females in our study rather than be reflective of sex-specific risk differences with respect to familial glioma.

We used direct sequencing to screen constitutional DNA from 101 glial patients from families in which two or more members had developed PBTs, most often GBM. Complete sequence data of the coding and splice site regions of p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 were generated for all samples submitted for mutational analysis.

Mutational analysis of the coding regions identified eight sequence variants; four in p16INK4A/p14ARF and four in p53 (Table 3). Three of the four sequence changes in p16INK4A/p14ARF have previously been documented by dbSNP as polymorphisms (rs37231249, rs11515, rs3088440). In addition we identified a novel synonymous change (19652 C>T) in one patient (a male index case diagnosed at 46 years with mixed oligoastrocytoma with a maternal uncle diagnosed with GBM at 51).

Table 3
Sequence variants identified in p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53

Two of the four sequence changes identified in p53 have previously been documented by dbSNP as polymorphisms (rs1042522, rs1800372) and genotype frequencies were not significantly different in cases from those previously documented in European populations (Table 3). One of the novel sequence changes identified was a synonymous change, thus predicted to have no deleterious consequences (11432T>C). The other sequence change identified was 12407G>A which leads to the substitution of arginine for histidine at amino acid 158 of the expressed protein (R158H). This mutation was identified in the index case of family 11, a non-Hispanic white individual and was diagnosed with a GBM at age 54. This individual’s paternal aunt had been diagnosed with GBM at age 55 (Table 1). R158H is predicted by in silico algorithms to be deleterious and to have functional consequences on p53. This mutation is catalogued by the IARC TP53 database as being causal of Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Intriguingly R158H has been proposed as being a low penetrance allele from analysis of childhood adrenocortical tumours(11).


Evidence for a heritable basis to glioma is provided by the well documented elevated risk of glioma in relatives of patients. Furthermore, numerous anecdotal reports have described families in which multiple family members have developed glial tumors. Despite the assertion that multiple-case families can be a consequence of ascertainment, these families provide compelling evidence for genetic predisposition. The majority of these families have been nuclear clusters with inherited disease compatible with the full range of genetic models of predisposition. However, a number are large multi-generational families supporting the hypothesis of an autosomal dominant disease-causing allele with reduced penetrance as the basis of inherited susceptibility.

The molecular basis for the familial clustering of glioma is largely unknown. A small number of glioblastomas and astrocytomas arise in kindreds with inherited cancer syndromes that increase the risk of cancer at more than one site. For example, germ-line mutations in p53 give rise to some cases of the Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which is characterized by the familial aggregation of breast cancer, sarcoma, childhood leukemia, and glioma. Similarly, germ-line mutations of the mismatch DNA repair genes MLH1 and PMS2 are implicated in Turcot syndrome in which patients develop gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas and glioblastomas. Finally, individuals with germ-line mutations of the NF1 or NF2 genes are prone to develop neurofibromatosis and occasionally develop gliomas as well. Collectively classical forms of these syndromes are very rare and thus genes associated with these syndromes make little contribution to the overall familial risk of glioma. This however is based on the premise that the classical forms of these diseases equates to mutational frequency.

Direct evidence for the role of p16INK4A/p14ARF as a predisposition locus for both melanoma and glioma is provided by reports of single families which appear to define a melanoma-astrocytoma syndrome (MIM 155755); characterized by a dual predisposition to melanoma and neural system tumors, commonly astrocytoma(12, 13). Support for an inter-relationship between the two tumor types is provided by the elevated risk of melanoma in relatives of glioma patients observed in some epidemiological studies (14, 15). The underlying genetic basis for propensity to both tumor types in the families has been shown to involve germline deletions of 9p21, consistent with, loss of p14ARF function being the critical abnormality associated with this syndrome, rather than contiguous loss of p16INK4A/p14ARF genes or disruption of expression or by mechanisms as yet unknown.

While the risk of melanoma associated with glioma is unlikely to solely reflect the melanoma-astrocytoma syndrome (MIM 155755) our analysis provides little evidence that archetypical p16INK4A/p14ARF mutation plays a role in defining glioma susceptibility. This does not however, preclude the role of other forms of genetic variation influencing glioma risk. Evidence for this assertion comes from a genome-wide association study of glioma we have recently conducted which has shown that common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) mapping telomeric to p16INK4A confer a moderate but significant risk of glioma (16, 17). While the population attributable fraction of glioma associated with these SNPs is high, the association translates to ~1% of the excess familial risk.

Knowledge of the molecular basis for familial aggregation of cancers is relevant to the clinical management of families both in terms of counseling and formulation of screening requirements. Here we have provided evidence that germline mutation in p53 is unlikely to play a role in the development of familial glioma outside the context of Li-Fraumeni syndrome. We cannot exclude the possibility that a minority of mutations have been missed, or cannot be detected by a PCR-based approach, however our findings are in keeping with previously published smaller studies. Hence the role of germline mutations in p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 are confined to the very small subset of syndromic glioma and this information should be integrated into clinical decision making processes.

The families such as the ones we have analyzed which exhibit the segregation of glioma compatible with Mendelian transmission provide a strong rationale for seeking to identify moderate-high penetrance mutations through genetic linkage. This is the overarching goal of GLIOGENE and through this initiative we have assembled a large family resource. Given that the power of linkage analysis to identify statistically significant linkage is limited by the existence of locus heterogeneity the observation that germline p16INK4A/p14ARF and p53 mutations do not play a major role in familial glioma makes the prospects for identifying disease-loci through the linkage based strategy a better proposition.

Supplementary Material

Supplementary Table 1


We are grateful to all patients, their clinicians and other individuals for their participation in this study. Work was undertaken with grant support from NIH R01 CA119215 01, American Brain Tumor Association, and National Brain Tumor Society and the Tug McGraw Foundation. Work in the Houlston laboratory is supported by Cancer Research UK (Bobby Moore C1298/A8362).

We acknowledge the following Gliogene Consortium members; Phyllis Adatto, Fabian Morice (MADCC); Lisa Calvocoressi, Kate Saunders (BW); Karen Devine, Gene Barnett, Cathy Brewer, Elizabeth Ennis (Case); Stacy Murray (Duke); Mitchel Berger, Susan Chang, Michael Prados, Terri Rice (UCSF); Christina Corpuz, Erika Florendo, Steven Rosenfeld (Columbia University); Candice Zahora (UIC); Jan C Buckner, Caterina Giannini, Brian P O'Neill, Deb Sprau (Mayo Clinic); Lisa M. DeAngelis, Erica Schubert, Sharon Bayuga (MSK); Pat Lada (NorthShore University HealthSystem); Deborah T. Blumenthal (Gertner Institute); Zvi Ram (Tel-Aviv University); Hans Bolander, Gudrun Byström, Roger Henriksson, Guiseppe Stragliotti and Fredrik Wiklund (Umeå University).



The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


Online Inheritance in Man:



IARC TP53 mutation database:




1. Bondy ML, Scheurer ME, Malmer B, et al. Brain tumor epidemiology: consensus from the Brain Tumor Epidemiology Consortium. Cancer. 2008;113:1953–1968. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Hemminki K, Tretli S, Sundquist J, et al. Familial risks in nervous-system tumours: a histology-specific analysis from Sweden and Norway. Lancet Oncol. 2009;10:481–488. [PubMed]
3. Kyritsis AP, Bondy ML, Xiao M, et al. Germline p53 gene mutations in subsets of glioma patients. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1994;86:344–349. [PubMed]
4. Li YJ, Sanson M, Hoang-Xuan K, et al. Incidence of germ-line p53 mutations in patients with gliomas. Int J Cancer. 1995;64:383–387. [PubMed]
5. Tachibana I, Smith JS, Sato K, et al. Investigation of germline PTEN, p53, p16(INK4A)/p14(ARF), and CDK4 alterations in familial glioma. Am J Med Genet. 2000;92:136–141. [PubMed]
6. Gao L, Liu L, van Meyel D, et al. Lack of germ-line mutations of CDK4, p16(INK4A), and p15(INK4B) in families with glioma. Clin Cancer Res. 1997;3:977–981. [PubMed]
7. Paunu N, Syrjakoski K, Sankila R, et al. Analysis of p53 tumor suppressor gene in families with multiple glioma patients. J Neurooncol. 2001;55:159–165. [PubMed]
8. Malmer B, Gronberg H, Andersson U, et al. Microsatellite instability, PTEN and p53 germline mutations in glioma families. Acta Oncol. 2001;40:633–637. [PubMed]
9. Malmer B, Adatto P, Armstrong G, et al. GLIOGENE an International Consortium to Understand Familial Glioma. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007;16:1730–1734. [PubMed]
10. Yan H, Parsons DW, Jin G, et al. IDH1 and IDH2 mutations in gliomas. N Engl J Med. 2009;360:765–773. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
11. Varley JM, McGown G, Thorncroft M, et al. Are there low-penetrance TP53 Alleles? evidence from childhood adrenocortical tumors. Am J Hum Genet. 1999;65:995–1006. [PubMed]
12. Randerson-Moor JA, Harland M, Williams S, et al. A germline deletion of p14(ARF) but not CDKN2A in a melanoma-neural system tumour syndrome family. Hum Mol Genet. 2001;10:55–62. [PubMed]
13. Bahuau M, Vidaud D, Jenkins RB, et al. Germ-line deletion involving the INK4 locus in familial proneness to melanoma and nervous system tumors. Cancer Res. 1998;58:2298–2303. [PubMed]
14. Scheurer ME, Etzel CJ, Liu M, et al. Aggregation of cancer in first-degree relatives of patients with glioma. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007;16:2491–2495. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
15. Goldgar DE, Easton DF, Cannon-Albright LA, et al. Systematic population-based assessment of cancer risk in first-degree relatives of cancer probands. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1994;86:1600–1608. [PubMed]
16. Shete S, Hosking FJ, Robertson LB, et al. Genome-wide association study identifies five susceptibility loci for glioma. Nat Genet. 2009;41:899–904. [PubMed]
17. Wrensch M, Jenkins RB, Chang JS, et al. Variants in the CDKN2B and RTEL1 regions are associated with high-grade glioma susceptibility. Nat Genet. 2009;41:905–908. [PMC free article] [PubMed]