The MEK inhibitor selumetinib reduces spinal neurofibroma burden in patients with NF1 and plexiform neurofibromas

Sadhana Jackson, Eva H Baker, Andrea M Gross, Patricia Whitcomb, Andrea Baldwin, Joanne Derdak, Cecilia Tibery, Jennifer Desanto, Amanda Carbonell, Kaleb Yohay, Geraldine O'Sullivan, Alice P Chen, Brigitte C Widemann, Eva Dombi
Neuro-oncology advances 2020, 2 (1): vdaa095

Background: Spinal neurofibromas (SNFs) in neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) can cause progressive spinal cord compression and neurological dysfunction. The MEK inhibitor selumetinib shrinks the majority of plexiform neurofibromas (PNs) in patients with NF1. We assessed the effect of selumetinib on SNF.

Methods: Pediatric and adult patients with NF1 and inoperable PN participating in phase 2 studies of selumetinib for PN were included in this analysis if they had SNF and serial spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Selumetinib was administered orally at the recommended dose of 25 mg/m2 /dose twice daily (max 50 mg b.i.d.; 1 cycle = 28 days). We qualitatively assessed the effect of selumetinib on SNF-related spinal canal distortion, cerebrospinal fluid distribution, and spinal cord deformity on MRI.

Results: Twenty-four patients (18 male), median age 16.9 years (range, 6.2-60.3), had SNF, 22 of which were associated with the same nerves as the target PN assessed on the clinical trial. Twenty patients had spinal cord deformity. Twenty-three patients completed at least 12 treatment cycles to date. Eighteen patients showed subtle to a marked improvement in SNF burden, 5 remained stable, and no worsening was observed during treatment.

Conclusions: This is the first study describing the effect of selumetinib on SNF. Of 24 patients, 18 exhibited some improvement of SNF burden on imaging. These findings suggest that selumetinib may prevent the worsening of cord compression, potentially reducing the need for surgical interventions in select patients or benefitting patients who do not have a surgical option. Prospective evaluation of the clinical benefit of selumetinib for SNF is warranted.

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