Current landscape and future prospects of radiation sensitizers for malignant brain tumors: A systematic review

Document Type



Background: Radiation therapy (RT) is the cornerstone of management of malignant brain tumors, but its efficacy is limited in hypoxic tumors. Although numerous radiosensitizer compounds have been developed to enhance the effect of RT, progress has been stagnant. Through this systematic review, we provide an overview of radiosensitizers developed for malignant brain tumors, summarize their safety and efficacy, and evaluate areas for possible improvement.
Methods: Following PRISMA guidelines, PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane, and Web of Science were searched using terminology pertaining to radiosensitizers for brain tumor RT. Articles reporting clinical evidence of nonantineoplastic radiosensitizers with RT for malignant central nervous system tumors were included. Data of interest were presumed mechanism of action, median overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), and adverse events.
Results: Twenty-two unique radiosensitizers were identified. Only 2/22 agents (fluosol with oxygen, and efaproxiral) showed improvement in OS in patients with glioblastoma and brain metastasis, respectively. A larger study was not able to confirm the latter. Improved PFS was reported with use of metronidazole, sodium glycididazole, and chloroquine. There was a wide range of toxicities, which prompted change of schedule or complete discontinuation of 9 agents.
Conclusions: Progress in radiosensitizers for malignant CNS tumors has been limited. Only 2 radiosensitizers have shown limited improvement in survival. Alternative strategies such as synthetic drug design, based on a mechanism of action that is independent of crossing the blood-brain barrier, may be necessary. Use of drug development strategies using new technologies to overcome past challenges is necessary.


Volume, issue, and pagination are not provided by the author/publisher

Publication (Name of Journal)

World Neurosurgery