Valproic acid for the treatment of pediatric malignant glioma

Klin Padiatr. Jul-Aug 1999;211(4):323-8. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1043809.


Despite surgery and adjuvant cytotoxic therapy anaplastic astrocytoma, glioblastoma and diffuse intrinsic brain stem glioma continue to have dismal prognosis. Differentiation induction is a new approach taking into account that malignant glioma cells share many features with immature glial progenitor cells that are capable of terminal differentiation. The concept of differentiation therapy is currently evaluated for several pediatric malignancies with or without multimodal standard therapy. Valproic acid (VPA) is a branched chain fatty acid that is able to inhibit proliferation of neuroectodermal cells and to induce these cells along neuronal or glial lineage. Preclinical studies have shown that VPA inhibits growth of human and rodent glial tumor cells in vitro and induces a distinct mature glial phenotype. In addition, growth of human neuroblastoma cells is inhibited in vitro and in vivo and exhibits marked evidence of differentiation. Treatment of neuroblastoma and glioma cells with VPA was accompanied by changes of surface molecule expression that enhance immunogenicity and reduce their capability to metastasize. The antitumoral effects observed in preclinical studies were reached at concentrations that are readily achieved in patients treated with VPA for epilepsy. Epilepsy patients receiving VPA have significantly enhanced hemoglobin F levels, supporting the hypothesis that nontoxic levels of VPA can induce cellular differentiation. Broad clinical experience with VPA and its low toxicity encourage the evaluation of VPA in patients that have been submitted to postoperative combined chemo- and radiotherapy for pediatric malignant glioma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Glioma / drug therapy*
  • Glioma / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Valproic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Valproic Acid / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Valproic Acid