Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), the most common tumor predisposition syndrome, occurs when NF1 gene variants result in loss of neurofibromin, a negative regulator of RAS activity. Plexiform neurofibromas (PN) are peripheral nerve sheath tumors that develop in patients with NF1 and are associated with substantial morbidity and for which, until recently, the only treatment was surgical resection. However, surgery carries several risks and a proportion of PN are considered inoperable. Understanding the genetic underpinnings of PN led to the investigation of targeted therapies as medical treatment options, and the MEK1/2 inhibitor selumetinib has shown promising efficacy in pediatric patients with NF1 and symptomatic, inoperable PN. In a phase I/II trial, most children (approximately 70%) achieved reduction in tumor volume accompanied by improvements in patient-reported outcomes (decreased tumor-related pain and improvements in quality of life, strength, and range of motion). Selumetinib is currently the only licensed medical therapy indicated for use in pediatric patients with symptomatic, inoperable NF1-PN, with approval based on the results of this pivotal clinical study. Several other MEK inhibitors (binimetinib, mirdametinib, trametinib) and the tyrosine kinase inhibitor cabozantinib are also being investigated as medical therapies for NF1-PN. Careful consideration of multiple aspects of both disease and treatments is vital to reduce morbidity and improve outcomes in patients with this complex and heterogeneous disease, and clinicians should be fully aware of the risks and benefits of available treatments. There is no single treatment pathway for patients with NF1-PN; surgery, watchful waiting, and/or medical treatment are options. Treatment should be individualized based on recommendations from a multidisciplinary team, considering the size and location of PN, effects on adjacent tissues, and patient and family preferences. This review outlines the treatment strategies currently available for patients with NF1-PN and the evidence supporting the use of MEK inhibitors, and discusses key considerations in clinical decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Article number553
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Clinical decision making
  • MEK inhibitors
  • Neurofibromatosis type 1
  • Plexiform neurofibroma
  • Surgery


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