Molecular neuro-oncology and development of targeted therapeutic strategies for brain tumors. Part 1: Growth factor and Ras signaling pathways

Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2003 Oct;3(5):595-614. doi: 10.1586/14737140.3.5.595.


Brain tumors are a diverse group of malignancies that remain refractory to conventional treatment approaches, including radiotherapy and cytotoxic chemotherapy. Molecular neuro-oncology has now begun to clarify the transformed phenotype of brain tumors and identify oncogenic pathways that may be amenable to targeted therapy. Growth factor signaling pathways are often upregulated in brain tumors and may contribute to oncogenesis through autocrine and paracrine mechanisms. Excessive growth factor receptor stimulation can also lead to overactivity of the Ras signaling pathway, which is frequently aberrant in brain tumors. Receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors, antireceptor monoclonal antibodies and antisense oligonucleotides are targeted approaches under investigation as methods to regulate aberrant growth factor signaling pathways in brain tumors. Several receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors, including imatinib mesylate (Gleevec), gefitinib (Iressa) and erlotinib (Tarceva), have entered clinical trials for high-grade glioma patients. Farnesyl transferase inhibitors, such as tipifarnib (Zarnestra), which impair processing of proRas and inhibit the Ras signaling pathway, have also entered clinical trials for patients with malignant gliomas. Further development of targeted therapies and evaluation of these new agents in clinical trials will be needed to improve survival and quality of life of patients with brain tumors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / genetics
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / physiology
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / genetics
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / physiology
  • Genes, ras / physiology*
  • Growth Substances / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Biology / trends*
  • Neurology / trends*
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / genetics
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Somatomedins / genetics
  • Somatomedins / physiology
  • Transforming Growth Factors / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factors / physiology


  • Growth Substances
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor
  • Somatomedins
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • Transforming Growth Factors