Diabetes or high blood glucose is linked to a higher risk of developing almost all forms of cancer. However, previous studies have discovered that glioma is less common in people, who suffer with diabetes or high blood sugar. A recent study helps to explain that link even further. The researchers question if brain tumors could have a powerful effect on blood glucose levels.
A research team from Ohio State University (OSU) and other institutions conducted a study that expands on the previous work conducted by Professor Schwartzbaum, which discovered a connection between diabetes and decreased risk of meningioma, a brain tumor that is nonmalignant.
Glioma typically begins in the glia cells, which are more plentiful and different from neurons, nerve cells. Glia cells are also unlike neurons, in that they do not transmit electrical signals that are normally associated with brain function. Instead, they maintain, support and protect neurons.
Glioma is generally diagnosed between the ages of 45 and 65 or middle age. Currently, there are no available treatments that are capable of ensuring long-term survival for Glioma patients, but several options are being researched as of right now.
The average survival rate for glioblastoma, which has been determined to be the most common form of adult glioma, is 14 months. The low survival rate in glioblastoma may be linked to the delayed onset of symptoms, which normally occur 3 months before the patient is diagnosed.
The research team analyzed data two long-term studies Me-Can and AMORIS, when combined together the studies tallied up to 797,945 patients, including 812 participants who developed glioma.
The findings revealed that patients with diabetes and high blood sugar were at a lower risk of developing glioma. The connection is also the strongest in the year prior to diagnosis.
Professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University and co-lead author Judith Schwartzbaum said, “Why is the association between blood glucose levels and the brain cancer the opposite of that for several other cancerous tumors?”
The researchers question if the tumor itself could affect blood glucose levels. For instance, it was already known that an insulin-like growth factor is correlated to the recurrence of glioma and individuals without diabetes have more of it than those with diabetes.
One explanation may be how the brain utilizes glucose. Even though glucose accounts for only 2 percent of body mass, the brain utilizes about 20 percent what is available.
The researchers note that further studies are needed to examine these questions and also see if anything can be drawn from the link between blood glucose and brain tumors, it could be utilized for new drugs and treatment for brain cancer.
“Our researcher raises questions that, when answered, will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in glioma development,” says Schwartzbaum.
The study was published in the journal Nature on March 31, 2017.