Meningioma is the most frequent tumor of neuroectodermal origin in humans. It is usually benign. Only a minority of cases shows progression to an anaplastic tumor (WHO grade II and III). Meningioma is generally a sporadic tumor. Multiple and familial cases are rare and mostly associated with (hereditary) neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2). Meningiomas show an unexpectedly high recurrence rate. Also, completely removed low-grade tumors can recur. Recurrence and multiplicity are correlated with the formation of a peritumoral edema. On the cytogenetic level, meningioma is the best-studied tumor in humans. Grade I tumors show either uniform monosomy 22 or a diploid karyotype. The majority of high-grade, but only a minority of low-grade, meningiomas show loss of merlin, a cytoskeleton-cytoplasm-linker protein. Merlin is the product of the NF2 gene located on chromosome 22. A second tumor suppressor gene on chromosome 22 has not yet been detected. In contrast to other solid tumors, progression of meningiomas is correlated with increasing hypodiploidy, showing characteristic clonal evolutions that mostly include chromosomes 14, 18, and 19 and, more rarely, 6 and 10. Structural aberrations are infrequent, except for the loss of the short arm of chromosome 1, which appears to be the decisive step for anaplastic growth. Comparative histochemical and molecular cytogenetic studies point to the alkaline phosphatase gene (ALPL, liver-bone-kidney type) located on 1p36.1→p34 as a candidate tumor suppressor gene. A model is proposed that tries to explain – with a minimum number of essential steps – the origin, progression, infiltration, and recurrence of meningiomas.
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