Published in Cancer Detection and Prevention 1993; 17(1).

Polyamine metabolism in brain tumors

Ernestus RI, Rohn G, Schroder R, Els T, Paschen W

Max-Planck Institut for Neurological Research, Cologne Germany, Dept of Neurosurgery, Univ of Cologne, Laboratory of Neuropathology, Univ of Cologne, Cologne, Germany

Biosynthesis of the polyamines putrescine, spermidine, and spermine has been found to be activated in tissues with cellular proliferation. In the present study we have investigated polyamine levels and the activity of the first key enzyme ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) in tissue samples obtained during operation of 157 patients with primary and recurrent brain tumors. Biochemical data were closely related to the histological classification, to the grading of malignancy, and to the morphological characteristics of each sample. Highest ODC activity was found in glioblastomas, medulloblastomas, and metastases. In gliomas mean ODC activity was significantly higher than in normal brain tissue (p<0.001). Furthermore, it was significantly higher in anaplastic gliomas WHO grade 3 and 4 as compared to more benign tumors grade I and I (p< 0.001). No differences were found between primary and recurrent gliomas. Putrescine levels also increased with rising grade of malignancy, whereas spermidine and spermine levels did not correlate with the histomorphological grading. In rapidly growing tumors pronounced heterogeneity was observed with high values in solid tumor parts and low values in necrotic areas. Thus, high ODC activity and, to a lesser degree, putrescine content represent biochemical markers of malignancy in brain tumors. Furthermore, the close connection of polyamine metabolism and cell proliferation reveals a new therapeutic approach for brain tumors by specific inhibition of this metabolic pathway.

Paper presented at the International Symposium on Cofactor Interactions and Cancer Prevention; Nice, France; March 17-19, 1993; in the section on Diagnostic Markers.