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Strahlenther Onkol. 2001 Apr;177(4):195-9.

Radiotherapy of the neuroaxis for palliative treatment of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.

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Klinik für Strahlentherapie, Städtisches Klinikum Karlsruhe.



Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis occurs in about 5% of solid tumors and may seriously compromise quality of life. Aim of the present study was to evaluate the feasibility of craniospinal irradiation with and without intrathecal chemotherapy and its efficacy with regard to symptom palliation and survival.


16 patients (mean age 46 years; nine breast cancers, five lung cancers, one renal cell cancer, one tumor of unknown primary site) with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis occurring after a median interval from primary tumor diagnosis of 5 months (0-300 months) received craniospinal irradiation between October 1995 and May 2000. The median total dose was 36 Gy (à 1.6-2.0 Gy). Ten patients were additionally treated with intrathecal methotrexate (15 mg per cycle, 2-8 cycles).


Median survival was 12 weeks, 8 weeks after radiotherapy alone, 16 weeks after combined modality treatment. 14 patients died from disease. Eleven patients (68%) experienced regression of their neurological symptoms during or soon after completion of radiotherapy. Seven patients regained their ability to walk, six had pain reduction, three regression of bladder and bowel incontinence. In three patients symptom progression and in two patients no change occurred. Side effects were: myelosuppression (CTC) Grade I: n = 2, Grade II: n = 4, Grade III: n = 4 patients and Grade IV: n = 1. Nine patients had dysphagia, seven mucositis, three suffered from nausea. No late toxicity was observed.


Craniospinal radiotherapy is feasible and effective for palliative treatment of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis. As far as the small patient number permits any definite conclusions, combined modality treatment seems superior to irradiation alone.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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