Brain tumors, primary and metastatic, are a cause of significant mortality and morbidity. Radiotherapy (RT) forms an integral part of the treatment of brain tumors. Intrinsic relative tumor radio-resistance, normal tissue tolerance and impact on neurocognitive function, all limit the efficacy of RT. Radiosensitizers can potentially increase efficacy on tumors while maintaining normal tissue toxicity, with or without inherent cytotoxicity. This article reviews the evolution of evidence with use of non-cytotoxic radiosensitizers in brain radiotherapy and their status at the end of the first decade of this millennium. Considering, the era of development and mechanism of action, these agents are classified as first, second and third-generation non-cytotoxic radiosensitizers. The last millennium involved elaboration of first-generation compounds including halogenated pyrimidines, hypoxic cell sensitizers (e.g. imidazoles) and glycolytic inhibitors (e.g. lonidamine). The first decade of this millennium has highlighted redox modulators like motexafin gadolinium and newer hypoxic cell sensitizers like efaproxiral, which have shown promise. However, phase III trials and meta-analyses have not identified a clear winner though the second-generation has shown some rays of hope. Recent research has focused on expanding the horizon by studying modulation of newer molecular pathways like DNA repair, microtubule stabilization, cytokine function and nuclear factor-kappa beta (NF-KB) in order to increase RT efficacy. The review concludes by summarizing the class of evidence and the level of recommendation available for use of non-cytotoxic radiosensitizers in brain RT.
Keywords: Astrocytoma, brain, glioma, glioblastoma, metastasis, radiosensitizers, radiotherapy, (18)Fluoromisonidazole, Karnofsky Performance Scale, Motexafin Gadolinium, High-grade gliomas, Difluromethylornithine, Cyclo-Oxygenase-2, Phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10, Trans Sodium Crocetinate, Procarbazine, lomustine and vincristine
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