A Case History of Glioma Progression

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Low-grade diffuse astrocytomas have an intrinsic tendency for malignant progression but the factors determining the kinetics of this process are still poorly understood. We report here the case of a male patient who developed a fibrillary astrocytoma at the age of 33 years and who underwent six surgical interventions over a period of 17 years without radiotherapy or chemotherapy. The first three biopsies spanned a period of 11 years and led to the diagnosis of low-grade, diffuse astrocytoma (WHO grade II), with a growth fraction (MIB-1 labeling index) of 2.3-3.7%. The fourth to sixth biopsies showed histological features of anaplastic astrocytoma (WHO grade III), with growth fractions between 5.0 and 10.5%. The fraction of gemistocytic neoplastic astrocytes also increased, from 0.3% in the first biopsy to 17.5% in the last biopsy and preceded the increase in proliferative activity and transition to anaplastic astrocytoma. The fraction of tumor cells immunoreactive to BCL-2 increased from 0.3% to 8.2%. A p53 mutation in codon 273 (CGT→TGT, Arg→Cys) was identified in the first biopsy and persisted throughout the course of the disease. However, the fraction of cells with p53 protein accumulation increased significantly during progression, from 3.2% in the first biopsy to 13.7% in the last. The absence of additional genetic alterations (PTEN mutations, loss of chromosome 10 and 19q) may be responsible for the slow progression and lack of glioblastoma features even after a 17-year disease duration.