Marked regression of metastatic pilocytic astrocytoma during treatment with imatinib mesylate (STI-571, Gleevec): a case report and laboratory investigation

J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2003 Aug;25(8):644-8. doi: 10.1097/00043426-200308000-00012.


Pilocytic astrocytomas are the most common childhood glioma. Most children with pilocytic astrocytomas survive many years with their tumor, but alternative treatment approaches are needed for those with refractory or metastatic disease. Signaling by the platelet-derived growth factor tyrosine kinase receptor pathways have been postulated to contribute to the development of gliomas. The authors treated a single patient with refractory, metastatic pilocytic astrocytoma with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib mesylate and observed marked, transient regression of tumor during treatment. Immunohistochemistry was used to assess expression of reported target genes of imatinib mesylate in this patient's tumor tissue and of the PDGFR in pilocytic astrocytomas from 19 other patients. Immunohistochemistry showed that the patient's tumor cells did not express any of the reported target molecules inhibited by imatinib mesylate. PDGFR expression was detected in tumor vasculative in the panel of 20 tumors, and not in the tumor cells. The authors suggest that the PDGFR-signaling pathway postulated to contribute to the development of gliomas in adults might not contribute to pilocytic astrocytomas in children, and that treatment with imatinib mesylate should be considered in patients with refractory pilocytic astrocytoma.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytoma / drug therapy*
  • Astrocytoma / pathology
  • Benzamides
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Child
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Prognosis
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology*
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor beta / analysis
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor beta / biosynthesis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Benzamides
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor beta