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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2002 Jul 1;53(3):533-42.

Craniopharyngioma: the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital experience 1984-2001.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 332 N Lauderdale Street, Memphis, TN 38105-2794, USA.



To review our institution's experience in the treatment of craniopharyngioma and assess the merits of initial therapy with limited surgery and irradiation.


The data of 30 patients (median age 8.6 years) with a diagnosis of craniopharyngioma between April 1984 and September 1997 were reviewed. Their course of treatment, neurologic, endocrine, and cognitive function, and quality of life at last follow-up were compared.


Fifteen patients were initially treated with surgery (8 required irradiation after relapse) and 15 with limited surgery and irradiation (2 required additional treatment for tumor progression). Only 1 patient died of tumor progression. The surgery group lost a mean of 9.8 points in full-scale IQ, and the combined-modality group lost only 1.25 points (p <0.063). Patients in the surgery group who had relapses (n = 9) lost a mean of 13.1 points (p <0.067). A loss of 10 points was considered clinically significant. The surgery group also had more frequent neurologic, ophthalmic, and endocrine complications. The mean Health Utility Index (a functional quality-of-life index) was higher for the combined-modality group (0.85) than for the surgery group (0.71; p <0.063, one-sided t test).


The acute neurologic, cognitive, and endocrine effects of surgery often affect long-term function and quality of life. Our experience suggests that limited surgery and radiotherapy cause lesser or comparable sequelae. Diabetes insipidus was the only endocrine deficiency that differed substantially in frequency between the two groups. Newer radiation planning and delivery techniques may make a combined-modality approach a good initial option for most patients.

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