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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1987 Oct;13(10):1457-62.

Postoperative radiotherapy of intracranial ependymoma in pediatric and adult patients.


In 33 patients undergoing operation and postoperative irradiation for intracranial ependymomas between January 1963 and December 1983, the tumor was grade 1 or 2 in 26 (79%) patients and grade 3 or 4 in 7 (21%). Operation consisted of only biopsy in 1 (3%), subtotal removal of tumor in 28 (85%), and gross total resection in 4 (12%). All patients received brain irradiation with a median dose of 4800 cGy. Seventeen (52%) patients also received spinal axis irradiation (median dose, 3000 cGy) which included 5 with high-grade tumors and 12 with low-grade infratentorial tumors. The relapse-free and overall survival rates at 5 years were 61% and 62%, respectively. Prognostic factors analyzed for statistically significant survival differences included age, sex, hydrocephalus, site, grade, extent of operation, extent of brain field, spinal axis irradiation, and brain dose. Grade was the only significant factor found: the 5-year survival of patients with low-grade ependymomas, 71%, was significantly better (p less than 0.04) than that of patients with high-grade ependymomas, 29%. Among the 31 patients evaluable for patterns of failure, treatment failed in 12 (39%) (10 only in the brain, 1 in the brain and spinal cord, and 1 only in the spine). All but one of the brain failures were at the site of the original primary lesion. Treatment failed in 4 of the 6 (67%) patients with high-grade tumor but in only 8 of the 25 (32%) with low grade tumor. Among the 7 low-grade infratentorial ependymomas treated with brain irradiation only, there was 1 treatment failure (in the spine; salvaged with further irradiation). Among the 12 patients with low-grade infratentorial tumors who received spinal axis irradiation, treatment failed in 1 (8%) (in the spine and also in the brain; patient subsequently died of disease). Nineteen (58%) patients remain alive; all but 2 of the patients who had recurrence died of their disease. This retrospective study suggests that: (a) patients with high-grade tumors have significantly poorer survival compared with those with low-grade tumors; (b) the main cause of death in ependymoma patients is intracranial failure at the primary site; and (c) craniospinal axis irradiation may not be necessary for patients with low-grade infratentorial ependymoma (localized irradiation alone may be adequate).

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