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J Neurooncol. 2001 Jan;51(1):57-66.

Redifferentiation therapy in brain tumors: long-lasting complete regression of glioblastomas and an anaplastic astrocytoma under long term 1-alpha-hydroxycholecalciferol.

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Neurology service, H pital Neurologique, Lyon, France.



Classical and new therapies in anaplastic astrocytomas and glioblastomas do not yield sufficient results. Agents able to redifferentiate neoplastic cells in vitro are known. We proposed alfacalcidol, a vitamin D analog able to bind to nuclear receptors regulating mitotic activity, in the treatment of malignant gliomas.


Patients with glioblastomas and anaplastic astrocytomas were enrolled in a phase II trial involving surgery or biopsy, radiotherapy (64 Gy), chemotherapy with VM26-CCNU or fotemustine, and alfacalcidol at the daily dose of 0.04 microg/kg. MRI took place every 6 months.


Eleven patients were included and completed the study. The series involved 10 glioblastomas and 1 anaplastic astrocytoma. Three patients out of 11 patients (27%), 2 glioblastomas and 1 astrocytoma grade III, exhibited a particular response, consisting in the progressive regression of the radiological lesion, with a decrease of the gadolinium-enhanced area. Simultaneously, the patients showed a complete clinical remission, observed respectively for 7, 5 and 4 years. In the series of 10 patients with glioblastomas, 2 cases showed this response; after 4 years, 2 of 10 patients with glioblastomas (20%) were alive; the median survival time is 21 months. Normal or subnormal calcemia was observed, at the dose proposed, so that no interruption of the drug was necessary.


Alfacalcidol, an in vitro agent of redifferentiation, is safe and seems able to induce in some patients, in synergy with classical surgery-radiotherapy-chemotherapy treatments, a particular progressive and durable regression of the tumor. The responders might represent about 20% of malignant gliomas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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