Unsanctifying the sanctuary: challenges and opportunities with brain metastases

Neuro Oncol. 2015 May;17(5):639-51. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/nov023.


While the use of targeted therapies, particularly radiosurgery, has broadened therapeutic options for CNS metastases, patients respond minimally and prognosis remains poor. The inability of many systemic chemotherapeutic agents to penetrate the blood-brain barrier (BBB) has limited their use and allowed brain metastases to become a burgeoning clinical challenge. Adequate preclinical models that appropriately mimic the metastatic process, the BBB, and blood-tumor barriers (BTB) are needed to better evaluate therapies that have the ability to enhance delivery through or penetrate into these barriers and to understand the mechanisms of resistance to therapy. The heterogeneity among and within different solid tumors and subtypes of solid tumors further adds to the difficulties in determining the most appropriate treatment approaches and methods of laboratory and clinical studies. This review article discusses therapies focused on prevention and treatment of CNS metastases, particularly regarding the BBB, and the challenges and opportunities these therapies present.

Keywords: CNS sanctuary; brain metastases; imaging; prevention; therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans


  • Antineoplastic Agents