Systematic Review of Molecular Targeted Therapies for Adult-Type Diffuse Glioma: An Analysis of Clinical and Laboratory Studies

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jun 21;24(13):10456. doi: 10.3390/ijms241310456.


Gliomas are the most common brain tumor in adults, and molecularly targeted therapies to treat gliomas are becoming a frequent topic of investigation. The current state of molecular targeted therapy research for adult-type diffuse gliomas has yet to be characterized, particularly following the 2021 WHO guideline changes for classifying gliomas using molecular subtypes. This systematic review sought to characterize the current state of molecular target therapy research for adult-type diffuse glioma to better inform scientific progress and guide next steps in this field of study. A systematic review was conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Studies meeting inclusion criteria were queried for study design, subject (patients, human cell lines, mice, etc.), type of tumor studied, molecular target, respective molecular pathway, and details pertaining to the molecular targeted therapy-namely the modality, dose, and duration of treatment. A total of 350 studies met the inclusion criteria. A total of 52 of these were clinical studies, 190 were laboratory studies investigating existing molecular therapies, and 108 were laboratory studies investigating new molecular targets. Further, a total of 119 ongoing clinical trials are also underway, per a detailed query on GBM was the predominant tumor studied in both ongoing and published clinical studies as well as in laboratory analyses. A few studies mentioned IDH-mutant astrocytomas or oligodendrogliomas. The most common molecular targets in published clinical studies and clinical trials were protein kinase pathways, followed by microenvironmental targets, immunotherapy, and cell cycle/apoptosis pathways. The most common molecular targets in laboratory studies were also protein kinase pathways; however, cell cycle/apoptosis pathways were the next most frequent target, followed by microenvironmental targets, then immunotherapy pathways, with the wnt/β-catenin pathway arising in the cohort of novel targets. In this systematic review, we examined the current evidence on molecular targeted therapy for adult-type diffuse glioma and discussed its implications for clinical practice and future research. Ultimately, published research falls broadly into three categories-clinical studies, laboratory testing of existing therapies, and laboratory identification of novel targets-and heavily centers on GBM rather than IDH-mutant astrocytoma or oligodendroglioma. Ongoing clinical trials are numerous in this area of research as well and follow a similar pattern in tumor type and targeted pathways as published clinical studies. The most common molecular targets in all study types were protein kinase pathways. Microenvironmental targets were more numerous in clinical studies, whereas cell cycle/apoptosis were more numerous in laboratory studies. Immunotherapy pathways are on the rise in all study types, and the wnt/β-catenin pathway is increasingly identified as a novel target.

Keywords: WHO brain tumor guideline; animal studies; apoptosis; astrocytoma; brain tumor; cell cycle; clinical studies; glioblastoma; glioma; idh-mutant astrocytoma; idh-mutant glioma; immunotherapy; microenvironmental targets; molecular pathway; molecular targeted therapy; oligodendroglioma; protein kinase pathway; systematic review; wnt/β-catenin pathway.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Glioma* / drug therapy
  • Glioma* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Isocitrate Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Mice
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Mutation
  • Oligodendroglioma*
  • beta Catenin


  • beta Catenin
  • Isocitrate Dehydrogenase

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.