Background: Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is a rare autosomal dominant genetic disorder, resulting in a variety of neural tumors, with bilateral vestibular schwannomas as the most frequent manifestation. Recently, merlin, the NF2 tumor suppressor, has been identified as a novel negative regulator of mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1); functional loss of merlin was shown to result in elevated mTORC1 signaling in NF2-related tumors. Thus, mTORC1 pathway inhibition may be a useful targeted therapeutic approach.
Methods: We studied in vitro cell models, cohorts of mice allografted with Nf2(-/-) Schwann cells, and a genetically modified mouse model of NF2 schwannoma in order to evaluate the efficacy of the proposed targeted therapy for NF2.
Results: We found that treatment with the mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin reduced the severity of NF2-related Schwann cell tumorigenesis without significant toxicity. Consistent with these results, in an NF2 patient with growing vestibular schwannomas, the rapalog sirolimus induced tumor growth arrest.
Conclusions: Taken together, these results constitute definitive evidence that justifies proceeding with clinical trials using mTORC1-targeted agents in selected patients with NF2 and in patients with NF2-related sporadic tumors.
Keywords: neurofibromatosis type 2; rapamycin; schwannoma.