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Neurosurg Clin N Am. 2000 Oct;11(4):627-38.

Proton radiation therapy for chordomas and chondrosarcomas of the skull base.

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Radiation Oncology, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03756, USA.


Most patients with conventional radiotherapy after surgery die with local disease progression. The superior local tumor control and overall survival achieved with fractionated proton RT can be attributed to improved dose localization characteristics of protons, resulting in higher doses delivered. Patients with base of skull neoplasms are increasingly considered for stereotactic radiosurgery. Recently, Muthukumar et al reported for the University of Pittsburgh group on cobalt-60 Gamma Knife (Elekta Instruments, Atlanta, GA) therapy for 15 patients with chordomas or chondrosarcomas of the base of the skull. With tumor volumes ranging between 0.98 and 10.3 mL (mean, 4.6 mL), doses to the tumor margin varying from 12 to 20 Gy (median, 18 Gy) were delivered. Two patients were treated without histologic tumor confirmation. After a median follow-up time of 40 months, 2 patients had died of disease, 2 patients had succumbed to intercurrent disease, and 1 patient surviving at the time of analysis had developed tumor progression. Neither actuarial local control nor actuarial survival data were presented. In the LLUMC series, most tumors exceeded sizes reportedly suitable for radiosurgery or were of a highly irregular configuration. Nevertheless, in 11 patients, tumors less than 15 mL in size remained locally controlled as did tumors sized between 15 and 25 mL in 11 additional patients; these patients were thus potential candidates for stereotactic radiosurgery. At present, too few reports on radiosurgery contain sufficient patient numbers and statistical analyses to permit one to draw conclusions about the feasibility of radiosurgery for chordomas and chondrosarcomas of the base of the skull. A principal difference between proton RT and radiosurgery as currently practiced in most centers concerns target definition. In proton RT, the GTV is treated. In addition, a clinical volume is defined, which is distinctly different from the GTV in size and shape, to include the operative site and other areas of microscopic risk. In many instances, only the GTV is targeted in radiosurgery. Although it is certainly appropriate to explore the role that radiosurgical techniques may have in treating these tumors, results should be evaluated against the excellent outcome that can be achieved with fractionated proton RT, particularly in patients with tumors small enough and of favorable configuration and location to make them candidates for radiosurgery. The present problem of particle therapy is its limited availability. In the United States, only two proton centers can currently provide treatment for base of skull lesions. The HCL is soon to be replaced by a hospital-based facility at the MGH. Several other proton centers in the United States are currently under active consideration. Proton RT is an evolutionary process. Recent developments in proton RT include intensity modulated therapy and improvements in beam delivery systems, namely, the introduction of active beam scanning. These should further increase the degree of dose conformity. In addition, other heavy particles are also being investigated so as to combine the physical advantages of protons with the differential increased biologic effectiveness of particles in tumor as compared to normal tissues. A report from the Heavy Ion Research Facility in Darmstadt, Germany, has not revealed any increased acute toxicities in the first 13 patients with skull base chordomas or chondrosarcomas treated using carbon ions. Several important factors have emerged from recently published results: Patients with low-grade chondrosarcomas and male patients with chordomas have an excellent chance of durable tumor control and long-term survival after proton RT. Severe complications are within the acceptable range considering the high doses delivered and given the major morbidity associated with uncontrollable tumor growth in such patients. Female patients with chordomas experience increased early and late failures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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