Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption in Neuro-Oncology: Strategies, Failures, and Challenges to Overcome

Brij S. Karmur, Justine Philteos, Aram Abbasian, Brad E. Zacharia, Nir Lipsman, Victor Levin, Stuart Grossman, Alireza Mansouri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) presents a formidable challenge in the development of effective therapeutics in neuro-oncology. This has fueled several decades of efforts to develop strategies for disrupting the BBB, but progress has not been satisfactory. As such, numerous drug- and device-based methods are currently being investigated in humans. Through a focused assessment of completed, active, and pending clinical trials, our first aim in this review is to outline the scientific foundation, successes, and limitations of the BBBD strategies developed to date. Among 35 registered trials relevant to BBBD in neuro-oncology in the database, mannitol was the most common drug-based method, followed by RMP-7 and regadenoson. MR-guided focused ultrasound was the most common device-based method, followed by MR-guided laser ablation, ultrasound, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. While most early-phase studies focusing on safety and tolerability have met stated objectives, advanced-phase studies focusing on survival differences and objective tumor response have been limited by heterogeneous populations and tumors, along with a lack of control arms. Based on shared challenges among all methods, our second objective is to discuss strategies for confirmation of BBBD, choice of systemic agent and drug design, alignment of BBBD method with real-world clinical workflow, and consideration of inadvertent toxicity associated with disrupting an evolutionarily-refined barrier. Finally, we conclude with a strategic proposal to approach future studies assessing BBBD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number563840
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - Sep 18 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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