Elizabeth Claus, MD, PhD
The development of meningioma is likely related to both genetic and environmental risk factors. Ionizing radiation (IR) is one of the few consistently identified environmental risk factors for meningioma development. At high dose levels, data exist for atomic bomb survivors as well as for cancer patients who have received radiation to the head, particularly at a young age, and show a greatly increased risk for meningioma. Evidence also exists for lower dose levels including results from our population-based study which suggests that extended exposure to dental x-rays at a young age may be associated with increased risk of meningioma.
With respect to genetic risk factors, there is considerable evidence that a reduced capacity to repair DNA is associated with increased sensitivity to radiation exposure, risk of development of cancer, as well as clinical prognosis after diagnosis with cancer alone or in association with treatment such as radiation therapy. Research indicates that cells in persons with certain variants in these genes, i.e. DNA repair genes, have more difficulty in repairing damage after exposure to IR and thus are at higher risk of tumors such as meningioma.
In Dr. Claus’ new study, “Genes for Radiation-Associated Meningioma,” she and her team hypothesizes that persons with meningioma exposed to prior IR represent a genetically sensitive sub-population of meningioma patients. Over the next two years, we will compare variants in genes thought to repair DNA damage in two groups: persons with meningiomas who were previously exposed to IR, and persons with similar IR exposure but who have not developed meningiomas. If the hypothesis is true then higher rates of certain variants are expected in a select group of DNA repair genes in persons with meningiomas versus those without meningiomas. If successful, findings might be used to identify persons at increased risk for meningiomas as well as persons for whom radiation therapy may be associated with an increased risk of adverse outcome.