Malignant glioma is characterized by rapid proliferation, invasion into surrounding central nervous system tissues, and aberrant vascularization. There is increasing evidence that shows gliomas are more complex than previously thought, as each tumor comprises considerable intratumoral heterogeneity with mixtures of genetically and phenotypically distinct subclones. Heterogeneity within and across tumors is recognized as a critical factor that limits therapeutic progress for malignant glioma. Recent genotyping and expression profiling of gliomas has allowed for the creation of classification schemes that assign tumors to subtypes based on similarity to defined expression signatures. Also, malignant gliomas frequently shift their biological features upon recurrence and progression. The ability of glioma cells to resist adverse conditions such as hypoxia and metabolic stress is necessary for sustained tumor growth and strongly influences tumor behaviors. In general, glioma cells are in one of two phenotypic categories: higher proliferative activity with angiogenesis, or higher migratory activity with attenuated proliferative ability. Further, they switch phenotypic categories depending on the situation. To date, a multidimensional approach has been employed to clarify the mechanisms of phenotypic shift of glioma. Various molecular and signaling pathways are involved in phenotypic shifts of glioma, possibly with crosstalk between them. In this review, we discuss molecular and phenotypic heterogeneity of glioma cells and mechanisms of phenotypic shifts in regard to the glioma proliferation, angiogenesis, and invasion. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie phenotypic shifts of glioma may provide new insights into targeted therapeutic strategies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology