The Francis Crick Institute
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The road to systemic therapy in von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease: Are we there yet?

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-30, 11:34 authored by Scott TC Shepherd, William M Drake, Samra Turajlic
Pathogenic germline mutations in VHL gene cause von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease, an autosomal dominant hereditary cancer syndrome associated with high penetrance of benign and malignant neoplasms, including clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), central nervous system haemangioblastomas (CNS-HB), retinal angiomas, phaeochromocytomas and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (pNET). Management of VHL disease involves lifelong radiological and biochemical surveillance, often leading to repeat surgical intervention causing significant morbidity and mortality. Systemic therapy that prevents or reduces the need for surgical intervention could improve clinical outcomes and quality of life for affected individuals. Belzutifan is a second-generation small molecule hypoxia-inducible factor 2α (HIF-2α) inhibitor recently approved by US and UK regulators for the treatment of VHL (disease)-associated ccRCC, CNS-HB and pNET. While this is a welcome step forward, it is vital that we consider in what circumstances these drugs are recommended and how they fit into the overall management of VHL disease. In this personal view article, we reflect on the history of the use of systemic therapy in localised VHL disease and consider open questions relating to the use of HIF-2α inhibitors, including the need to involve medical oncologists in the multidisciplinary team moving forward. Indeed, VHL disease is the perfect paradigm for similar settings in the future.


Crick (Grant ID: CC2044, Grant title: Turajlic CC2044) Cancer Research UK (Grant ID: 18176, Grant title: CRUK C50947/A18176)