Treatment of Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma: From Chemotherapy to Small Molecules
Central Nervous System Neoplasms
Primary central nervous system lymphoma (PCNSL) is a rare form of extranodal non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is typically confined to the brain, eyes, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) without evidence of systemic spread. PCNSL is an uncommon tumor, and only four randomized trials and one phase III trial have been completed so far, all in the first-line setting. The prognosis of patients with PCNSL has improved during the past few decades with the introduction of high-dose methotrexate (HD-MTX), which now serves as the backbone of all first-line treatment regimens. Despite recent progress, results after treatment are durable in half of patients, and therapy can be associated with late neurotoxicity. Novel insights into the pathophysiology of PCNSL have identified the B-cell receptor (BCR) pathway as a key mechanism in the pathogenesis of PCNSL. The use of novel agents targeting components of the BCR pathway, namely the Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor ibrutinib, and immunomodulatory drugs (IMIDs) like lenalidomide and pomalidomide, has so far been limited to patients who have recurrent/refractory PCNSL with promising high response rates. Within the past 5 years, there has been a peak in clinical trials investigating small molecules and novel reagents in the recurrent/refractory setting, including immune checkpoint inhibitors, IMIDs, and BTK and PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors.