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Anticancer Drugs. 2006 Oct;17(9):1003-16.

New approaches to primary brain tumor treatment.

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  • 1Departments of Medicine, The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Primary brain tumors represent over 100 different tumor types with widely divergent biologies and clinical outcomes, but these neoplasms frequently pose similar challenges to neuro-oncologists. Malignant gliomas are the most common type of primary intrinsic brain tumor in adults and remain extremely lethal. Current standard-of-care therapies for these cancers include surgery, radiation and palliative cytotoxics, which have significant side-effects and limited efficacy. Advances in our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of cancer have led to targeted molecular therapies that may permit improvement in therapeutic efficacy and reduced toxicity; these therapies, however, still face many challenges. Signal transduction pathways that are inappropriately regulated in brain cancers include growth factors and their receptors (e.g. epidermal growth factor receptor, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor and platelet-derived growth factor receptor), which regulate cellular interactions with the microenvironment and intracellular oncogenic pathways. Low-molecular-weight inhibitors have been developed to target many kinases and may have advantages in terms of delivery. Monoclonal antibodies may have greater specificity, but face delivery restrictions. Preferential tumor delivery of chemotherapies, conjugated toxins and radioisotopes has been achieved through convection-enhanced delivery, intratumoral implants and intra-arterial infusion. Despite these advances, few molecularly targeted therapies have demonstrated significant antineoplastic activity for a broad range of patients, possibly due to tumor and patient heterogeneity. Improved functional neuropathology and imaging may permit identification of patient subgroups for which clinical responses may be enriched. It is probable, however, that targeted therapies will be most effective in combination either with one another or with cytotoxic therapies. In this study, we review the current state of new therapies for malignant gliomas.

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