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A novel intramedullary spinal cord tumor model: functional, radiological, and histopathological characterization

Gaurav Mavinkurve, Gustavo Pradilla, Federico G. Legnani, Betty M. Tyler, Carlos A. Bagley, Henry Brem, and George Jallo

Object

Survival rates for high-grade intramedullary spinal cord tumors (IMSCTs) are approximately 30%, and optimal therapy has yet to be determined. Development of a satisfactory intramedullary tumor model is necessary for testing new therapeutic paradigms that may prolong survival. The authors report the technique, functional progression, radiological appearance, and histopathological features of a novel intramedullary model in rabbits.

Methods

Ten New Zealand white rabbits were randomized to receive an intramedullary injection of either 25 µl of VX2 carcinoma cells (500,000 cells; six rabbits) or 25 ml of medium (Dulbecco modified Eagle medium; four rabbits) into the midthoracic spinal cord. Postoperatively the rabbits were evaluated twice daily for neurological deficits. High-resolution magnetic resonance (MR) images were acquired preoperatively and weekly postoperatively until onset of paraparesis, at which point the animals were killed, and the midthoracic spines were processed for histopathological examination.

The VX2-carcinoma cells grew in 100% of animals injected and resulted in a statistically significant mean onset of paraparesis of 16.8 ± 1.7 days (p = 0.0035, log-rank test), compared with animals in the control group in which neurological deficits were absent by Day 45. Contrast-enhanced T1-weighted MR imaging best demonstrated space-occupying intramedullary lesions and histopathological findings confirmed the intramedullary location of the tumor. Animals in the control group exhibited no functional, radiographic, or pathological signs of tumor.

Conclusions

Progression to paraparesis was consistent in all the VX2-injected animals, with predictable onset of paraparesis occurring approximately 17 days postinjection. Histopathological and radiological characteristics of the VX2 intramedullary tumor are comparable with those of aggressive primary human IMSCTs. Establishment of this novel animal tumor model will facilitate the testing of new therapeutic paradigms for the treatment of IMSCTs.

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Camptothecin analogs in malignant gliomas: comparative analysis and characterization

Prakash Sampath, Eric Amundson, Monroe E. Wall, Betty M. Tyler, Mansukh C. Wani, Lloyd M. Alderson, Michael Colvin, Henry Brem, and Jon D. Weingart

Object. The authors compared and characterized several new classes of camptothecin (CPT) analogs (a total of 22 drugs) directed against human and murine glioma cell lines in vitro, trying to identify CPT analogs that can be used for local therapy in future clinical trials. Camptothecin is a naturally occurring alkaloid that inhibits the DNA-replicating enzyme topoisomerase I. Moreover, CPT and its analogs have shown promising antitumor activity against both systemic and intracranial neoplasms. Because the CPTs have poor bioavailability and are unable to cross the blood—brain barrier, they may best be delivered to the central nervous system by polymers. The authors have previously shown that local delivery of Na-CPT by implantable polymers prolongs survival in a rat intracranial glioma model. In recent years, a number of newly synthesized CPT analogs have been developed that exhibit more potency and stability than Na-CPT.

Methods. Cytotoxicities of the drugs were tested using modified clonogenic and monotetrazolium assays in three glioma cell lines. A potassium chloride—sodium dodecyl sulfate coprecipitation assay was used to determine the frequency of drug-stabilized cleavable complexes. Of the CPT analogs analyzed, the 10,11-methylenedioxy (MD) class consistently demonstrated the greatest cytotoxicity. Three of these analogs, 10,11-MD-20(RS)-CPT, 10,11-MD-20(S)-CPT-glycinate ester (Gly).HCl, and 9-amino-10,11-MD-20(S)-CPT-Gly, exhibit significantly greater antiproliferative activities than CPT, Na-CPT, or 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU) against all three glioma cell lines. In addition, the 10,11-MD20(RS)-CPT analog induces more cleavable complexes than Na-CPT at every concentration.

Conclusions. The increased potency and greater stability of CPT analogs hold promise for more effective local antitumor treatments against malignant intracranial brain tumors. The greater cytotoxicity of 10,11-MD CPTs in comparison with other CPT analogs as well as CPT, BCNU, or Na-CPT, may present an ideal candidate drug class for development against both primary and metastatic brain tumors.

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Multidrug resistance gene (MDR1) expression in human brain tumors

Michael W. Nabors, Constance A. Griffin, Barbara A. Zehnbauer, Ralph H. Hruban, Peter C. Phillips, Stuart A. Grossman, Henry Brem, and O. Michael Colvin

✓ Multidrug resistance for many types of cancer outside the central nervous system (CNS) has been found to be due to the overexpression of the multidrug resistance gene MDR1, of which the gene-product P-glycoprotein acts as a membrane-bound efflux pump for many anticancer drugs. To examine whether brain tumors overexpress the MDR1 gene, 25 brain-tumor specimens were subjected to Northern blot analysis: 10 gliomas, eight meningiomas, three schwannomas, one malignant lymphoma, and three tumors metastatic to the brain. Ten fresh-frozen autopsy specimens of various parts of normal brain were also analyzed. Blots were hybridized with 32P-labeled Chinese hamster complementary deoxyribonucleic acid (cDNA) and 32P-labeled human MDR1 cDNA. The MDR1 gene messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) was detected in two tumors using the Chinese hamster probe (one sphenoid wing meningioma and one metastatic prostate tumor) and in one CNS lymphoma using the human probe. Intact mRNA could not be extracted from the fresh-frozen autopsy specimens of normal brain. Seventeen tumors were examined for P-glycoprotein by immunohistochemical staining using murine monoclonal antibody C219: eight gliomas, eight meningiomas, and one craniopharyngioma. The neoplastic cells from two gliomas and three meningiomas and the blood vessels within six gliomas and two meningiomas stained positively for P-glycoprotein. Seven of 10 normal brain specimens stained positively for P-glycoprotein in blood vessels but no specimen demonstrated staining of parenchymal cells. This study demonstrates that the MDR1 gene can be detected in normal brain, and in malignant, benign, and metastatic lesions. P-glycoprotein can be present in tumor blood vessels even when it is not seen in neoplastic cells. Although the role of P-glycoprotein in tumor blood vessels needs to be further examined and more clearly defined, drug resistance in malignant primary brain tumors may result from characteristics not solely of neoplastic cells but also tumor vasculature.

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Comparative analysis of paracrine immunotherapy in experimental brain tumors

Maciej S. Lesniak, Prakash Sampath, Francesco DiMeco, Michael P. Viglione, Betty M. Tyler, Drew M. Pardoll, and Henry Brem

Object

Local delivery of cytokines has been shown to have a potent antitumor activity against a wide range of malignant brain tumors. In this study, the authors examined the efficacy of treating central nervous system (CNS) tumors by transfecting poorly immunogenic B16/F10 melanoma cells with interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, or granulocyte-macrophage–colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) gene, and using these cells to deliver the cytokine locally at the site of the CNS tumor. The object was to determine which cytokine would possess the greatest antitumor activity and to further elucidate its mechanism of action.

Methods

The transfected B16/F10 cells were irradiated to prevent replication and injected intracranially into C57BL/6 mice (10 mice per group) along with nonirradiated, nontransfected B16/F10 (wild-type) melanoma cells. Sixty percent of mice treated with IL-2 (p < 0.001 compared with control) and 10% treated with IL-4 (median survival = 31 days, p < 0.001 compared with control) were long term survivors (> 120 days). The median survival for animals treated with GM-CSF was 22 days with no long term survivors (p = 0.01 compared with control). Control animals that received only wild-type cells had a median survival of 18 days (range 15–20 days). Histopathological examination of brains from animals killed at different times showed minimal infiltration of tumor cells in the IL-2 group, moderate infiltration of tumor cells in the IL-4 group, and gross tumor invasion and tissue necrosis in the GM-CSF group. Animals treated with IL-2 showed a strong CD8 T cell–mediated response, whereas IL-4 evoked a prominent eosinophilic infiltrate in the area of the tumor.

Conclusions

High levels of locally expressed IL-2 rather than IL-4 or GM-CSF stimulate a strong immunological cytotoxic antitumor response that leads to significant prolongation of survival in mice challenged with B16/F10 intracranial melanoma tumor cells. Consequently, IL-2 may be a superior candidate for use in paracrine immunotherapy.

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Improving medical student recruitment to neurosurgery

Daniel Lubelski, Roy Xiao, Debraj Mukherjee, William W. Ashley, Timothy Witham, Henry Brem, Judy Huang, and Stacey Quintero Wolfe

OBJECTIVE

Neurosurgery seeks to attract the best and brightest medical students; however, there is often a lack of early exposure to the field, among other possible barriers. The authors sought to identify successful practices that can be implemented to improve medical student recruitment to neurosurgery.

METHODS

United States neurosurgery residency program directors were surveyed to determine the number of medical student rotators and medical students matching into a neurosurgery residency from their programs between 2010 and 2016. Program directors were asked about the ways their respective institutions integrated medical students into departmental clinical and research activities.

RESULTS

Complete responses were received from 30/110 institutions. Fifty-two percent of the institutions had neurosurgery didactic lectures for 1st- and 2nd-year medical students (MS1/2), and 87% had didactics for MS3/4. Seventy-seven percent of departments had a neurosurgery interest group, which was the most common method used to integrate medical students into the department. Other forms of outreach included formal mentorship programs (53%), lecture series (57%), and neurosurgery anatomy labs (40%). Seventy-three percent of programs provided research opportunities to medical students, and 57% indicated that the schools had a formal research requirement. On average, 3 medical students did a rotation in each neurosurgery department and 1 matched into neurosurgery each year. However, there was substantial variability among programs. Over the 2010–2016 period, the responding institutions matched as many as 4% of the graduating class into neurosurgery per year, whereas others matched 0%–1%. Departments that matched a greater (≥ 1% per year) number of medical students into neurosurgery were significantly more likely to have a neurosurgery interest group and formal research requirements. A greater percentage of high-matching programs had neurosurgery mentorship programs, lecture series, and cadaver training opportunities compared to the other institutions.

CONCLUSIONS

In recent decades, the number of applicants to neurosurgery has decreased. A major deterrent may be the delayed exposure of medical students to neurosurgery. Institutions with early preclinical exposure, active neurosurgery interest groups, research opportunities, and strong mentorship recruit and match more students into neurosurgery. Implementing such initiatives on a national level may increase the number of highly qualified medical students pursuing neurosurgery.

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Quantifying the utility of a multidisciplinary neuro-oncology tumor board

Adham M. Khalafallah, Adrian E. Jimenez, Carlos G. Romo, David Olayinka Kamson, Lawrence Kleinberg, Jon Weingart, Henry Brem, Stuart A. Grossman, and Debraj Mukherjee

OBJECTIVE

There has been limited research on the efficacy of multidisciplinary tumor boards (MDTBs) in improving the treatment of patients with tumors affecting the nervous system. The objective of the present study was to quantify the utility of MDTBs in providing alternative diagnostic interpretations and treatment plans for this patient population.

METHODS

The authors performed a prospective study of patients in 4 hospitals whose cases were discussed at MDTBs between July and November 2019. Patient demographic data, diagnoses, treatment plans, and eligibility for clinical trials were recorded, among other variables.

RESULTS

A total of 176 cases met eligibility criteria for study inclusion. The majority (53%) of patients were male, and the mean patient age was 52 years. The most frequent diagnosis was glioblastoma (32.4%). Among the evaluable cases, MDTBs led to 38 (21.6%) changes in image interpretation and 103 (58.2%) changes in patient management. Additionally, patients whose cases were discussed at MDTBs had significantly shorter referral times than patients whose cases were not discussed (p = 0.024).

CONCLUSIONS

MDTB discussions led to significant numbers of diagnostic and treatment plan changes as well as shortened referral times, highlighting the potential clinical impact of multidisciplinary care for patients with nervous system tumors.

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Letter to the Editor. Increasing medical student exposure to neurosurgery

Tushar Garg and Apurva Shrigiriwar

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Letter to the Editor. Improvement in the exposure of medical students to neurosurgery in Italy

Ismail Zaed, Grazia Menna, and Benedetta Tinterri

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Prognostic significance of contrast-enhancing anaplastic astrocytomas in adults

Clinical article

Kaisorn L. Chaichana, Thomas Kosztowski, Ashwini Niranjan, Alessandro Olivi, Jon D. Weingart, John Laterra, Henry Brem, and Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa

Object

Patients harboring anaplastic astrocytomas (AAs) typically have a poor prognosis, with median survival times of approximately 3 years following resection. However, a significant variability in individual outcomes remains, with some patients surviving for a few months and others for several years. The ability to predict patient outcomes based on preoperative variables would help prognosticate survival and may also guide treatment strategies. The prognostic implications of a preoperative contrast-enhancing AA remain poorly understood.

Methods

The medical records of all patients who underwent a craniotomy for a hemispheric AA from 1996 to 2006 at a single institution were retrospectively reviewed. Multivariate proportional hazards regression analysis was used to identify independent associations with recurrence and survival. The Kaplan-Meier method and log-rank analysis were used to plot and compare outcomes for patients with and without preoperative contrast enhancement.

Results

One hundred sixty-five patients were available for analysis. The AAs were contrast enhancing in 102 patients (62%), and nonenhancing in 63 patients (38%). There were no significant differences in clinical and treatment-related variables between patients with and without contrast enhancement. After multivariate analysis, contrast enhancement was independently associated with decreased survival (p = 0.02) and increased recurrence (p = 0.04). The 5-year overall survival rates for patients with contrast-enhancing versus nonenhancing tumors were 31 and 38.5%, respectively. The 3-year rates of progression-free survival for patients with contrast-enhancing versus nonenhancing tumors were 32 and 56%, respectively. Interestingly, heterogeneously enhancing tumors appear to result in poorer outcomes as compared with other types of enhancement (such as ring enhancing, nodular, and others). Among patients with contrast-enhancing AAs, gross-total resection significantly delayed recurrence (p = 0.05) but did not significantly prolong survival (p = 0.52).

Conclusions

This study may provide insights into risk-stratifying patients with AAs, and most specifically those with AAs that enhance with contrast administration.

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Surgical outcomes for older patients with glioblastoma multiforme: preoperative factors associated with decreased survival

Clinical article

Kaisorn L. Chaichana, Khan K. Chaichana, Alessandro Olivi, Jon D. Weingart, Richard Bennett, Henry Brem, and Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa

Object

As the population ages, the incidence of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) among older patients (age > 65 years) will increase. Older patients, unlike their younger counterparts, are not often offered aggressive surgery because of their age, comorbidities, and potential inability to tolerate surgery. The goal of this study was to identify preoperative factors associated with decreased survival for older patients who underwent resection of a GBM. The identification of these factors may provide insight into which patients would benefit most from aggressive surgery.

Methods

All patients older than 65 years who underwent nonbiopsy resection of an intracranial GBM at a single institution between 1997 and 2007 were retrospectively reviewed. Factors associated with overall survival were assessed using multivariate proportional hazards regression analysis after controlling for peri- and postoperative factors known to be associated with outcome (extent of resection, carmustine wafer implantation, temozolomide chemotherapy, and radiation therapy). Variables with p < 0.05 were considered statistically significant.

Results

A total of 129 patients with an average age of 73 ± 5 years met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. At last follow-up, all 129 patients had died, with a median survival of 7.9 months. The preoperative factors that were independently associated with decreased survival were Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) score less than 80 (p = 0.001), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (p = 0.01), motor deficit (p = 0.01), language deficit (p = 0.005), cognitive deficit (p = 0.02), and tumor size larger than 4 cm (p = 0.002). Patients with 0–1 (Group 1), 2–3 (Group 2), and 4–6 (Group 3) of these factors had statistically different survival times, where the median survival was 9.2, 5.5, and 4.4 months, respectively. In log-rank analysis, the median survival for Group 1 was significantly longer than that for Group 2 (p = 0.004) and Group 3 (p < 0.0001), while Group 2 had longer survival than Group 3 (p = 0.02).

Conclusions

Older patients with an increasing number of these factors may not benefit as much from aggressive surgery as patients with fewer factors. This may provide insight into identifying which patients older than 65 years of age may benefit from aggressive surgery.