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Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2004 Feb;4(1):105-28.

Molecular neuro-oncology and development of targeted therapeutic strategies for brain tumors. Part 2: PI3K/Akt/PTEN, mTOR, SHH/PTCH and angiogenesis.

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  • 1Dardinger Neuro-Oncology Center, Department of Neurology, Ohio State University Hospitals, 465 Means Hall, 1654 Upham Drive, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Brain tumors are a diverse group of malignancies that remain refractory to conventional treatment approaches. Molecular neuro-oncology has now begun to clarify the transformed phenotype of brain tumors and identify oncogenic pathways that might be amenable to targeted therapy. Activity of the phosphoinositide 3; kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway is often upregulated in brain tumors due to excessive stimulation by growth factor receptors and Ras. Loss of function of the tumor suppressor gene PTEN also frequently contributes to upregulation of PI3K/Akt. Several compounds, such as wortmannin and LY-294002, can target PI3K and inhibit activity of this pathway. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is an important regulator of cell growth and metabolism and is often upregulated by Akt. Clinical trials of CCI-779, an inhibitor of mTOR, are ongoing in recurrent malignant glioma patients. The sonic hedgehog/PTCH pathway is involved in the tumorigenesis of some familial and sporadic medulloblastomas. This pathway can be targeted by cyclopamine, which is under evaluation in preclinical studies. Angiogenesis is a critical process for development and progression of brain tumors. Targeted approaches to inhibit angiogenesis include monoclonal antibodies, receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors, antisense oligonucleotides and gene therapy. Clinical trials are ongoing for numerous angiogenesis inhibitors, including thalidomide, CC-5103 and PTK 787/ZK 222584. Further development of targeted therapies and evaluation of these new agents in clinical trials will be needed to improve survival and quality of life of patients with brain tumors.

Copyright Future Drugs Ltd.

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