Therapeutic strategies of recurrent glioblastoma and its molecular pathways ‘Lock up the beast’

22 Jan 2021
Shaimaa M El-khayat, Waleed O Arafat

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) has a poor prognosis—despite aggressive primary treatment composed of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, median survival is still around 15 months. It starts to grow again after a year of treatment and eventually nothing is effective at this stage. Recurrent GBM is one of the most disappointing fields for researchers in which their efforts have gained no benefit for patients. They were directed for a long time towards understanding the molecular basis that leads to the development of GBM. It is now known that GBM is a heterogeneous disease and resistance comes mainly from the regrowth of malignant cells after eradicating specific clones by targeted treatment. Epidermal growth factor receptor, platelet derived growth factor receptor, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor are known to be highly active in primary and recurrent GBM through different underlying pathways, despite this bevacizumab is the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug for recurrent GBM. Immunotherapy is another important promising modality of treatment of GBM, after proper understanding of the microenvironment of the tumour and overcoming the reasons that historically stigmatise GBM as an ‘immunologically cold tumour’. Radiotherapy can augment the effect of immunotherapy by different mechanisms. Also, dual immunotherapy which targets immune pathways at different stages and through different receptors further enhances immune stimulation against GBM. Delivery of pro-drugs to be activated at the tumour site and suicidal genes by gene therapy using different vectors shows promising results. Despite using neurotropic viral vectors specifically targeting glial cells (which are the cells of origin of GBM), no significant improvement of overall-survival has been seen as yet. Non-viral vectors ‘polymeric and non-polymeric’ show significant tumour shrinkage in pre-clinical trials and now at early-stage clinical trials. To this end, in this review, we aim to study the possible role of different molecular pathways that are involved in GBM’s recurrence, we will also review the most relevant and recent clinical experience with targeted treatments and immunotherapies. We will discuss trials utilised tyrosine receptor kinase inhibitors, immunotherapy and gene therapy in recurrent GBM pointing to the causes of potential disappointing preliminary results of some of them. Additionally, we are suggesting a possible future treatment based on recent successful clinical data that could alter the outcome for GBM patients.

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