The CNS and the brain tumor microenvironment: Implications for glioblastoma immunotherapy

Fiona A. Desland, Adília Hormigo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in adults. Its aggressive nature is attributed partly to its deeply invasive margins, its molecular and cellular heterogeneity, and uniquely tolerant site of origin—the brain. The immunosuppressive central nervous system (CNS) and GBM microenvironments are significant obstacles to generating an effective and long-lasting anti-tumoral response, as evidenced by this tumor’s reduced rate of treatment response and high probability of recurrence. Immunotherapy has revolutionized patients’ outcomes across many cancers and may open new avenues for patients with GBM. There is now a range of immunotherapeutic strategies being tested in patients with GBM that target both the innate and adaptive immune compartment. These strategies include antibodies that re-educate tumor macrophages, vaccines that introduce tumor-specific dendritic cells, checkpoint molecule inhibition, engineered T cells, and proteins that help T cells engage directly with tumor cells. Despite this, there is still much ground to be gained in improving the response rates of the various immunotherapies currently being trialed. Through historical and contemporary studies, we examine the fundamentals of CNS immunity that shape how to approach immune modulation in GBM, including the now revamped concept of CNS privilege. We also discuss the preclinical models used to study GBM progression and immunity. Lastly, we discuss the immunotherapeutic strategies currently being studied to help overcome the hurdles of the blood–brain barrier and the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7358
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • CNS immunity
  • Glioblastoma
  • Immunotherapy
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'The CNS and the brain tumor microenvironment: Implications for glioblastoma immunotherapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this