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Temozolomide: The evidence for its therapeutic efficacy in malignant astrocytomas

Authors Omar AI, Mason W

Published 26 June 2009 Volume 2009:4 Pages 93—111


Ayman I Omar1, Warren P Mason2

1Department of Medicine, Princess Margaret Hospital and the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 2Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Introduction: Malignant gliomas are a heterogeneous group of primary central nervous system neoplasms that represent less than 2% of all cancers yet carry a significant burden to society. They are frequently associated with considerable and progressive neurological disability and are ultimately intractable to all forms of treatment. Temozolomide (TMZ) is a new second generation DNA alkylating agent that has become part of malignant astrocytoma management paradigms because of its proven efficacy, ease of administration, and favorable toxicity profile.

Aims: To review the role of TMZ in the management of malignant astrocytomas (World Health Organization grades III and IV) including newly diagnosed (n) and recurrent (r) anaplastic astrocytomas (AA) and glioblastomas.

Evidence review: A series of pivotal clinical trials have established a role for TMZ in the treatment of malignant astrocytomas. A large phase II trial examining the role of TMZ in rAA showed a response rate of 35%, and a 6-month progression-free survival of 46%. This led to the accelerated approval of TMZ by the FDA and the EU for the treatment of rAA. Evidence for a role of TMZ in nAA is currently limited but research is ongoing in this area. The role of TMZ in the management of glioblastoma at the time of recurrence (rGBM) is less impressive but evidence for its activity was demonstrated in two large phase II trials that led to the approval of TMZ for this indication in Europe and Canada but not in the US. A recent large prospective randomized phase III trial showed that the addition of TMZ during and after radiation therapy (RT) in newly diagnosed (nGBM) patients prolonged median overall survival by 2.5 months; perhaps more importantly, the 2-year survival rate for patients receiving TMZ and RT was 26% compared with 10% for those receiving RT alone. Concurrent TMZ with RT followed by adjuvant TMZ has become the standard of care for nGBM patients. Based on the evidence presented in this trial, TMZ received approval from the FDA and the EU for patients with nGBM in 2005.

Place in therapy: There is evidence to support the use of TMZ for the following diseases in the order of most to least convincing: nGBM, rAA, rGBM, and nAA. This order may quickly change as more trials are being designed and implemented, particularly with novel TMZ dosing schedules.

Keywords: temozolomide, evidence, malignant astrocytoma, glioma, anaplastic astrocytoma, glioblastoma

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