Glioblastoma Multiforme Medication

Updated: May 26, 2022
  • Author: Jeffrey N Bruce, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert H Engelhard, III, MD, PhD, FACS, FAANS  more...
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Medication Summary

The alkylating agent temozolomide is used for treatment of newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme, and the monoclonal antibody bevacizumab is used for treatment of recurrences. In addition, several medications are used for supportive care. Vasogenic cerebral edema is typically managed with corticosteroids (eg, dexamethasone), usually in combination with some form of antiulcer agent (eg, famotidine).

For seizures, the patient usually is started on levetiracetam (Keppra), phenytoin (Dilantin), or carbamazepine (Tegretol). Levetiracetam is often used because it lacks the effects on the P450 system seen with phenytoin and carbamazepine, which can interfere with antineoplastic therapy. A guideline from the Society for Neuro-Oncology and European Society of Neuro-Oncology recommends against routine prophylaxis with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in patients with newly diagnosed brain tumors and found insufficient evidence to recommend prescribing AEDs to reduce the risk of perioperative or postoperative seizures in patients undergoing surgery for brain tumors. [129]


Antineoplastic agents

Class Summary

Although the optimal chemotherapeutic regimen for glioblastoma is not yet defined, several studies have suggested significant survival benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy.

Temozolomide (Temodar)

Oral alkylating agent converted to MTIC at physiologic pH; 100% bioavailable; approximately 35% crosses the blood-brain barrier. Indicated for glioblastoma multiforme combined with radiotherapy. Significant overall survival improvement was demonstrated in patients treated with temozolomide and radiation compared with radiotherapy alone.

Carmustine (BiCNU)

Alkylates and cross-links DNA strands, inhibiting cell proliferation.

Erlotinib (Tarceva)

Pharmacologically classified as a human epidermal growth factor receptor type 1/epidermal growth factor receptor (HER1/EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor. EGFR is expressed on the cell surface of normal cells and cancer cells. Indicated for locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer after failure of at least one prior chemotherapy regimen.

Gefitinib (Iressa)

An anilinoquinazoline. Indicated as monotherapy to treat locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer after failure of both platinum-based and docetaxel chemotherapies. The mechanism is not fully understood. Inhibits tyrosine kinases intracellular phosphorylation associated with transmembrane cell surface receptors.

Lomustine (CCNU, Gleostine)

Although its mechanism of action is not completely understood, lomustine causes inhibition of DNA & RNA synthesis resulting from carbamylation of DNA polymerase, alkylation of DNA, and alteration of RNA proteins.



Class Summary

These agents are used to treat and prevent seizures.

Levetiracetam (Keppra)

Used as adjunct therapy for partial seizures and myoclonic seizures. Also indicated for primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures. Mechanism of action is unknown.

Phenytoin (Dilantin)

Acts to block sodium channels and prevent repetitive firing of action potentials. As such, it is a very effective anticonvulsant. First-line agent in patients with partial and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Carbamazepine (Tegretol)

Like phenytoin, acts by interacting with sodium channels and blocking repetitive neuronal firing. First-line agent in patients with partial and tonic-clonic seizures. Serum levels should be checked and should be approximately 4-8 mcg/mL.



Class Summary

These agents reduce edema around the tumor, frequently leading to symptomatic and objective improvement.

Dexamethasone (Decadron)

Postulated mechanisms of action in brain tumors include reduction in vascular permeability, cytotoxic effects on tumors, inhibition of tumor formation, and decreased CSF production.