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A systematic review and meta-analysis of gene therapy in animal models of cerebral glioma: why did promise not translate to human therapy?

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    Rights statement: © 2015 The Authors. Evidence-based Preclinical Medicine Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-33
JournalEvidence-based Preclinical Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


The development of therapeutics is often characterized by promising animal research that fails to translate into clinical efficacy; this holds for the development of gene therapy in glioma. We tested the hypothesis that this is because of limitations in the internal and external validity of studies reporting the use of gene therapy in experimental glioma.

We systematically identified studies testing gene therapy in rodent glioma models by searching three online databases. The number of animals treated and median survival were extracted and studies graded using a quality checklist. We calculated median survival ratios and used random effects meta-analysis to estimate efficacy. We explored effects of study design and quality and searched for evidence of publication bias.

We identified 193 publications using gene therapy in experimental glioma, including 6,366 animals. Overall, gene therapy improved median survival by a factor of 1.60 (95% CI 1.53–1.67). Study quality was low and the type of gene therapy did not account for differences in outcome. Study design characteristics accounted for a significant proportion of between-study heterogeneity. We observed similar findings in a data subset limited to the most common gene therapy.

As the dysregulation of key molecular pathways is characteristic of gliomas, gene therapy remains a promising treatment for glioma. Nevertheless, we have identified areas for improvement in conduct and reporting of studies, and we provide a basis for sample size calculations. Further work should focus on genes of interest in paradigms recapitulating human disease. This might improve the translation of such therapies into the clinic.

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