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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1990 Aug;19(2):439-44.

Reversal of cranial nerve dysfunction with radiation therapy in adults with lymphoma and leukemia.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10021.


Twenty patients with leukemic (8) or lymphomatous (12) meningitis and cranial nerve palsies were treated with cranial irradiation at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center from June 1987 through December 1988. The diagnosis of malignant meningitis was confirmed by malignant or 'suspicious' cerebrospinal fluid cytology in 13/20 patients. The 6th and 7th cranial nerves were most commonly involved. Multiple nerve involvement was present in 11/20 patients, for a total of 42 nerves affected. Treatment consisted of whole brain irradiation to a median dose of 2400 cGy (range: 1000-3000) at 200-300 cGy per fraction. Median survival was 7 months. Forty of 42 nerves improved, for an actuarial response rate of 95% at 3 months. The complete response rate was 44% and was better for patients with lymphoma than for those with leukemia (72% vs 19%, p = 0.04). Delaying initiation of irradiation more than 3 days after the onset of symptoms did not affect the ultimate response rate, but slightly increased the median time to response (9 days vs 14 days, p = 0.1). Radiation therapy is an effective means of reversing cranial nerve dysfunction in leukemia and lymphoma. Higher doses may be needed to increase the rate of complete response.

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