New treatment strategies for malignant gliomas

Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2006 Jul;6(7):1087-104. doi: 10.1586/14737140.6.7.1087.


Malignant gliomas are the most prevalent type of primary brain tumor in adults. Despite progress in brain tumor therapy, the prognosis of malignant glioma patients remains dismal. The median survival of patients with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common grade of malignant glioma, is 10-12 months. Conventional therapy of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy is largely palliative. Essentially, tumor recurrence is inevitable. Salvage treatments upon recurrence are palliative at best and rarely provide significant survival benefit. Therapies targeting the underlying molecular pathogenesis of brain tumors are urgently required. Common genetic abnormalities in malignant glioma specimens are associated with aberrant activation or suppression of cellular signal transduction pathways and resistance to radiation and chemotherapy. Several low molecular weight signal transduction inhibitors have been examined in preclinical and clinical malignant glioma trials. The efficacy of these agents as monotherapies has been modest, at best; however, small subsets of patients who harbor specific genetic changes in their tumors may display favorable clinical responses to defined small molecule inhibitors. Multitargeted kinase inhibitors or combinations of agents targeting different mitogenic pathways may overcome the resistance of tumors to single-agent targeted therapies. Well designed studies of small molecule kinase inhibitors will include assessment of safety, drug delivery, target inhibition and correlative biomarkers to define mechanisms of response or resistance to these agents. Predictive biomarkers will enrich for patients most likely to respond in future clinical trials. Additional clinical studies will combine novel targeted therapies with radiation, chemotherapies and immunotherapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Brain Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology
  • Glioma / drug therapy*
  • Glioma / genetics*
  • Glioma / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / physiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • ErbB Receptors