Principal investigator Melissa Bondy of MD Anderson says this study is long overdue, because not much is known about brain tumors that run in families. She says that may be because familial tumors account for only about five percent of all tumors.
"About 17,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year. And approximately about thirteen thousand will die from the disease."
The National Cancer Institute grant will be shared by MD Anderson and a dozen other research centers around the world. Bondy says it's going to take a large scale group effort like that to start filling this void of information on the causes of inherited tumors.
"Because the numbers are few and, especially in epidemiology, it's hard for us to do large scale studies in one center alone. And so what we needed to do was to be able to form a consortium where we're able to bring together groups that see large numbers of patients to be able to do this."
Finding family connections between people with brain tumors is difficult, and finding ways to identify those connections is one of the goals of this study. The various centers will interview about 16,000 individuals in the hope of finding 400 families with inherited tumors, which Bondy says have never gotten the attention they deserve.
"Anybody who has been affected with a disease like this, or something that's fatal, you worry about what's going to happen to your children if it's familial, what's going to happen to their children. And I think that you can't just lose sight of diseases if they aren't as common as breast cancer or lung cancer or something else. They're significant to people that have them or that might get them."
There's more information about this historic brain tumor study on our website KUHF dot ORG. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.