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Carcinomatous meningitis: Leptomeningeal metastases in solid tumors

Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd
Publication Date
DOI: 10.4103/2152-7806.111304
  • Surgical Neurology International: Neuro-Oncology
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Leptomeningeal metastasis (LM) results from metastatic spread of cancer to the leptomeninges, giving rise to central nervous system dysfunction. Breast cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma are the most frequent causes of LM among solid tumors in adults. An early diagnosis of LM, before fixed neurologic deficits are manifest, permits earlier and potentially more effective treatment, thus leading to a better quality of life in patients so affected. Apart from a clinical suspicion of LM, diagnosis is dependent upon demonstration of cancer in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or radiographic manifestations as revealed by neuraxis imaging. Potentially of use, though not commonly employed, today are use of biomarkers and protein profiling in the CSF. Symptomatic treatment is directed at pain including headache, nausea, and vomiting, whereas more specific LM-directed therapies include intra-CSF chemotherapy, systemic chemotherapy, and site-specific radiotherapy. A special emphasis in the review discusses novel agents including targeted therapies, that may be promising in the future management of LM. These new therapies include anti-epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors erlotinib and gefitinib in nonsmall cell lung cancer, anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody trastuzumab in breast cancer, anti-CTLA4 ipilimumab and anti-BRAF tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as vermurafenib in melanoma, and the antivascular endothelial growth factor monoclonal antibody bevacizumab are currently under investigation in patients with LM. Challenges of managing patients with LM are manifold and include determining the appropriate patients for treatment as well as the optimal route of administration of intra-CSF drug therapy.

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