Current and future strategies for the treatment of malignant brain tumors

M. G. Castro, R. Cowen, I. K. Williamson, A. David, M. J. Jimenez-Dalmaroni, X. Yuan, A. Bigliari, J. C. Williams, J. Hu, P. R. Lowenstein

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Glioblastoma (GB) is the most common subtype of primary brain tumor in adults. These tumors are highly invasive, very aggressive, and often infiltrate critical neurological areas within the brain. The mean survival time after diagnosis of GB has remained unchanged during the last few decades, in spite of advances in surgical techniques, radiotherapy, and also chemotherapy; patients' survival ranges from 9 to 12 months after initial diagnosis. In the same time frame, with our increasing understanding and knowledge of the physiopathology of several cancers, meaningful advances have been made in the treatment and control of several cancers, such as breast, prostate, and hematopoietic malignancies. Although a number of the genetic lesions present in GB have been elucidated and our understanding of the progressions of this cancer has increased dramatically over the last few years, it has not yet been possible to harness this information towards developing effective cures. In this review, we will focus on the classical ways in which GB is currently being treated, and will introduce a novel therapeutic modality, i.e., gene therapy, which we believe will be used in combination with classical treatment strategies to prolong the life-span of patients and to ultimately be able to control and/or cure these brain tumors. We will discuss the use of several vector systems that are needed to introduce the therapeutic genes within either the tumor mass, if these are not resectable, or the tumor bed, after successful tumor resection. We also discuss different therapeutic modalities that could be exploited using gene therapy, i.e., conditional cytotoxic approach, direct cytotoxicity, immunotherapy, inhibition of angiogenesis, and the use of pro-apoptotic genes. The advantages and disadvantages of each of the current vector systems available to transfer genes into the CNS are also discussed. With the advances in molecular techniques, both towards the elucidation of the physiopathology of GB and the development of novel, more efficient and less toxic vectors to deliver putative therapeutic genes into the CNS, it should be possible to develop new rationale and effective therapeutic approaches to treat this devastating cancer. © 2003 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)71-108
    Number of pages37
    JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2003


    • Brain tumors
    • Clinical trials
    • Gene therapy
    • Glioblastoma
    • Suicide genes
    • Viral vectors


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