Background: Management of unresectable progressive meningioma remains controversial and constitutes a major challenge since therapeutic options including chemotherapy and hormone modulation are limited. Recent data have suggested that hydroxyurea treatment may have an antitumoral effect. The purpose of this prospective phase II study was to evaluate the efficacy of hydroxyurea treatment for unresectable progressive meningioma.
Methods: From 1997 to 1999, consecutive patients presenting unresectable meningioma with clinically and/or neuroradiologically documented progression were considered for entry into this protocol. Previous radiotherapy was not a mandatory inclusion criteria. Treatment consisted of continuous oral administration of hydroxyurea at a dose of 20 mg/kg per day. Follow-up assessment included physical examination, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) performed every three months, as well as regular blood testing. The primary endpoint was documentation of objective response by MRI or CT.
Results: The intent-to-treat population was 43 patients with at least 18 months follow-up. Median age was 60.4 years. Twenty-eight patients had undergone surgery following initial diagnosis. The meningioma was located in the skull base in 67% of patients. Histology was benign in 18 and atypical in 10. The eligible population included 36 patients with documented progressive disease at the time of inclusion; with progression documented clinically in 29 (67.5%) and/or radiologically in 20 (46%). In 7 patients, clinical or radiological progression could not be confirmed. The intent-to-treat analysis at median 26 months follow-up revealed objective response to hydroxyurea in only 3 patients (7%) including one on the basis of improvement in visual symptoms and two on MRI analysis. Progressive disease was observed clinically or radiologically in 26 patients (60.5%). Of the eligible population (n=36), 2 achieved an objective response and 13 (36%) exhibited stabilization under hydroxyurea therapy, while 21 (58%) progressed under treatment. Overall tolerance was good but anemia (grade I-II) and asthenia (grade I-II) were observed in 28% and 23.5% respectively. Treatment was discontinued in 3 patients because of chronic skin toxicity in one and anemia and asthenia in two.
Conclusion: Hydroxyurea treatment is of marginal efficacy for meningioma and must not be considered as an alternative if radiotherapy or surgery is feasible. New efficient medical treatments are still required for progressive meningiomas.