Most meningiomas are effectively treated by surgery and radiation therapy. However, there is an important subset of patients for which these treatments are ineffective. Chemotherapies such as hydroxyurea and alpha interferon are only of marginal benefit. There is an urgent need for more effective treatments for patients who have failed surgery and radiation therapy. Meningiomas are very vascular tumors that express high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF). Blocking the receptors for VEGF and PDGF is a potentially promising strategy to treat these tumors.
With the support of the Brain Science Foundation, Dr. Wen and his team are currently conducting a phase II trial of sunitinib (Sutent) for patients with all grades of recurrent meningiomas, as well as hemangiopericytomas. Sunitinib is an oral targeted molecular drug that blocks the receptors for VEGF and PDGF. This study is being conducted in collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In addition to determining the effectiveness of this approach, Dr. Wen will be studying the patients’ tumors in the hope of identifying the molecular changes that will predict which patients will respond best to this treatment.