INTRODUCTION: Diffuse gliomas have local and global effects on neurophysiological brain functioning, which are often seen as 'passive' consequences of the tumor. However, seminal preclinical work has shown a prominent role for neuronal activity in glioma growth: mediated by neuroligin-3 (NLGN3), increased neuronal activity causes faster glioma growth. It is unclear whether the same holds true in patients. Here, we investigate whether lower levels of oscillatory brain activity relate to lower NLGN3 expression and predict longer progression free survival (PFS) in diffuse glioma patients.
METHODS: Twenty-four newly diagnosed patients with diffuse glioma underwent magnetoencephalography and subsequent tumor resection. Oscillatory brain activity was approximated by calculating broadband power (0.5-48 Hz) of the magnetoencephalography. NLGN3 expression in glioma tissue was semi-quantitatively assessed by immunohistochemistry. Peritumor and global oscillatory brain activity was then compared between different levels of NLGN3 expression with Kruskal-Wallis tests. Cox proportional hazards analyses were performed to estimate the predictive value of oscillatory brain activity for PFS.
RESULTS: Patients with low expression of NLGN3 had lower levels of global oscillatory brain activity than patients with higher NLGN3 expression (P < 0.001). Moreover, lower peritumor (hazard ratio 2.17, P = 0.008) and global oscillatory brain activity (hazard ratio 2.10, P = 0.008) predicted longer PFS.
CONCLUSIONS: Lower levels of peritumor and global oscillatory brain activity are related to lower NLGN3 expression and longer PFS, corroborating preclinical research. This study highlights the important interplay between macroscopically measured brain activity and glioma progression, and may lead to new therapeutic interventions in diffuse glioma patients.