Gene therapy strategies for intracranial tumours: glioma and pituitary adenomas


  • Maria G. Castro
  • R. Cowen
  • J. Smith Arica
  • J. Williams
  • S. Ali
  • S. Windeatt
  • V. González Nicolini
  • T. Maleniak
  • P. R. Lowenstein


viral vectors, HSV1-TK, prolactinomas, Glioblastomas, apoptosis, cytokines, angiogenesis


Intracranial tumours such as brain gliomas and pituitary adenomas pose a challenging area of research for the development of gene therapy strategies, both from the point of view of the severity of the diseases, to the physiological implication of gene delivery into the central nervous system and pituitary gland. On the one hand, brain gliomas are very malignant tumours, with a life expectancy of six months to a year at the most after the time of diagnosis, in spite of advances in treatment modalities which involve chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Gene therapy for these tumours is therefore a very attractive therapeutic modality which due to the severity of the disease is already in clinical trials. On the other hand, pituitary tumours are usually benign, and in most cases, treatment is successful. Nevertheless, there are some instances, especially with the macroadenomas and some invasive tumours in which treatment fails. Gene therapy strategies for these adenomas therefore needs to progress substantially in terms of safety, adverse side effects and physiological impact on the normal pituitary gland before clinical implementation.

In this paper, we will review gene delivery systems both viral and non-viral and several therapeutic strategies which could be implemented for the treatment of these diseases. These include cytotoxic approaches both conditional and direct, immune-stimulatory strategies, anti-angiogenic strategies and approaches which harness pro-apoptotic and tumour suppressor gene targets. We will also review the models which are currently available in which these gene therapy strategies can be tested experimentally.

This new therapeutic modality holds enormous promise, but we still need substantial improvements both from the delivery, efficacy and safety stand points before it can become a clinical reality.




Invited Reviews