Hearing improvement after bevacizumab in patients with neurofibromatosis type 2.

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N Engl J Med. 2009 Jul 23;361(4):358-67. Epub 2009 Jul 8.

Hearing improvement after bevacizumab in patients with neurofibromatosis type 2.


Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA. splotkin@partners.org

BACKGROUND: Profound hearing loss is a serious complication of neurofibromatosis type 2, a genetic condition associated with bilateral vestibular schwannomas, benign tumors that arise from the eighth cranial nerve. There is no medical treatment for such tumors.

METHODS: We determined the expression pattern of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and three of its receptors, VEGFR-2, neuropilin-1, and neuropilin-2, in paraffin-embedded samples from 21 vestibular schwannomas associated with neurofibromatosis type 2 and from 22 sporadic schwannomas. Ten consecutive patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 and progressive vestibular schwannomas who were not candidates for standard treatment were treated with bevacizumab, an anti-VEGF monoclonal antibody. An imaging response was defined as a decrease of at least 20% in tumor volume, as compared with baseline. A hearing response was defined as a significant increase in the word-recognition score, as compared with baseline. RESULTS: VEGF was expressed in 100% of vestibular schwannomas and VEGFR-2 in 32% of tumor vessels on immunohistochemical analysis. Before treatment, the median annual volumetric growth rate for 10 index tumors was 62%. After bevacizumab treatment in the 10 patients, tumors shrank in 9 patients, and 6 patients had an imaging response, which was maintained in 4 patients during 11 to 16 months of follow-up. The median best response to treatment was a volumetric reduction of 26%. Three patients were not eligible for a hearing response; of the remaining seven patients, four had a hearing response, two had stable hearing, and one had progressive hearing loss. There were 21 adverse events of grade 1 or 2.

CONCLUSIONS: VEGF blockade with bevacizumab improved hearing in some, but not all, patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 and was associated with a reduction in the volume of most growing vestibular schwannomas. 2009 Massachusetts Medical Society