While relatively rare overall, glioblastoma is the most common type of brain cancer among adults. Glioblastomas are highly aggressive, which means the tumors typically grow and spread very rapidly.
Glioblastomas almost always occur sporadically in people who have no family history of brain tumors. As such, scientific evidence suggests that this malignancy is not hereditary in the vast majority of cases. The precise underlying cause of glioblastoma is not yet well understood.
A potential genetic link
While most glioblastomas are not believed to be inherited, the risk of developing this type of brain cancer appears to be elevated in individuals who are diagnosed with certain genetic cancer syndromes, such as:
- Neurofibromatosis type 1
- Turcot syndrome
- Li Fraumeni syndrome
In these cases, the affected individuals usually display symptoms caused by specific gene mutations, and they are typically diagnosed with multiple types of cancer at a very young age.
Because glioblastoma cells tend to have more genetic abnormalities than the cells of other types of brain cancer, researchers believe multiple genetic mutations may contribute to its development. Genetic testing is an option for individuals who have an inherited condition that may predispose them to developing glioblastoma.
The outstanding research team in the Neuro-Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center is working hard to gain a better understanding of whether certain inherited genes may be at play in the development of glioblastomas. For instance, ongoing genetic studies are looking at families that have multiple relatives with brain tumors, and we are learning more every day.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, Program Leader, Department of Neuro-Oncology.