Hereditary Brain Cancer and Glioblastoma Multiforme

Nancy J. O'Connor, RN, MSN, CRNP
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink,  
My mother has recently been diagnosed as having a glioblastoma. I wonder if you could suggest a source for information regarding genetic causes. I had an uncle die from the same tumor eight months ago. Can you make any suggestions?  
With Kind Regards,

Nancy J. O'Connor, RN, MSN, CRNP, of the Brain Tumor Center at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital responds:

Overall, there are no known causative factors or known hereditary risks associated with the development of glioblastoma multiforme. There are hereditary diseases, Von Hippel Lindau and neurofibromatosis, that have an associated risk with the development of brain tumors but these are very rare. Areas that are being looked at as possible causes include viruses, genetic defects, and occupational factors such as working with electromagnetic fields or in the petrochemical industry.

Listed below are some articles on the topic. You may read the abstracts online:

Watkins D, Rouleau GA
Genetics, prognosis, and therapy of central nervous system tumors.
Cancer Detect Prev 18:139-144, 1994.

Bondy M, Wiencke J, Wrensch M, et al
Genetics of brain tumors: A review.
Journal of Neuro-oncology 18:69-81, 1994.

Berleur MP, Cordier S
The role of chemical, physical, or viral exposures and health factors in neurocarcinogenesis: Implications for epidemiologic studies of brain tumors.
Cancer Causes Control 6:240-256, 1995.

It may also help to read a cancer newsgroup ("" for example), or to join an on-line discussion list related to cancer, where you can talk with doctors, patients, and researchers. To see a list of groups, use the "Automated E-mail Discussion Group Subscriber" on our website, at the following address to find one for brain cancers:

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Our "Global Resources" page also holds links to many other cancer sites, governmental, medical, and otherwise. To access them and to perform automated searches of sites which routinely publish information about cancer, please see the following OncoLink page:

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Best of luck in your search from the staff of OncoLink!

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