Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) are rare mesenchymal neoplasms that represent a profound therapeutic challenge due to their high proclivity for recurrence and metastasis and relatively poor response to systemic therapy regimens. While our understanding of the pathophysiology of MPNST is growing, including loss of the tumor suppressor gene neurofibromin and subsequent activation of the Ras pathway, targeted therapy to modify the poor prognosis seen in MPNST patients has thus far been without success. Correspondingly, MPNST patients are treated as per soft tissue sarcoma treatment algorithms with anthracycline-based therapy as the front-line therapy of choice for patients with unresectable, locally advanced, or metastatic MPNST. Beyond first-line anthracycline-based therapy, other standard cytotoxic chemotherapy agents used in advanced MPNST include the alkylating agent ifosfamide and the topoisomerase II inhibitor etoposide. Notably, soft tissue sarcoma regimens are used in MPNST despite distinct systemic therapy sensitivity and prognosis. This is particularly notable for neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)-associated MPNST, which is associated with poorer response to systemic therapy and prognosis than sporadic MPNST. As such, NF1-associated MPNST is a particular area in need of novel therapeutic strategies. Given the lack of benefit in the targeting of unique aspects of MPNST disease biology thus far, pre-clinical studies to identify novel rational therapies are critical to inform future clinical trials.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02700230.
Keywords: Chemotherapy; Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor; Metastatic; Neurofibromatosis; Ras.