Novel molecular targeted therapies for patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 with inoperable plexiform neurofibromas: a comprehensive review

ESMO Open. 2021 Aug;6(4):100223. doi: 10.1016/j.esmoop.2021.100223. Epub 2021 Aug 10.


Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a genetic disorder that carries a higher risk of tumor development. Plexiform neurofibromas (PNs) are present in 50% of NF1 and cause significant morbidity when surgery is not feasible. Systemic therapies had not succeeded to reduce PN tumor volume until 2016 when the first trial with an MAPK/extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (MEK) inhibitor was published. We performed a systematic research on novel targeted therapies for patients with NF1 and PNs in PubMed, EMBASE, and conference abstracts with the last update in February 2021. Since 2016, seven trials have reported positive results with MEK inhibitors and other molecular targeted therapies (cabozantinib). Selumetinib has shown an overall response rate of 68% in children with NF1 and symptomatic inoperable PNs, and was associated with pain improvement and a manageable adverse events profile. This led to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of selumetinib in May 2020. Recently, cabozantinib and mirdametinib have also proven their efficacy in adult population. Other MEK inhibitors such as trametinib and binimetinib have also communicated promising preliminary results. Ongoing trials in different populations and with intermittent dosing strategies are underway.

Keywords: molecular targeted therapy; neoplasms; neurofibromatosis type 1; plexiform neurofibromas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neurofibroma, Plexiform* / drug therapy
  • Neurofibromatosis 1* / complications
  • Neurofibromatosis 1* / drug therapy
  • Neurofibromatosis 1* / genetics
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Tumor Burden


  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors