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Cancer. 2002 Sep 1;95(5):997-1002.

Salvage chemotherapy for recurrent spinal cord ependymona.

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Department of Neurology, University of Southern California/Norris Cancer Center, Los Angeles 90033-0804, USA.



Ependymomas are reported to constitute 4% of all primary central nervous system (CNS) malignancies in adults, 30% of which occur in the spinal cord. A prospective Phase II study to determine toxicity and response to chronic oral etoposide in patients with recurrent low-grade intramedullary spinal cord ependymoma (SCE) was conducted.


Ten patients (6 males and 4 females with a median age of 30 years) with recurrent SCE were treated with oral etoposide (50mg/m(2)/day given daily for 21 days followed by a 14-day break and then repeated constituted a cycle of therapy). All patients had failed surgery and radiotherapy and four patients had failed one prior chemotherapy. Blood counts were obtained weekly, and neurologic examination and a chemistry panel were performed monthly. Contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging of the spine was performed every 8 weeks after a cycle of etoposide and before the next cycle of chemotherapy was initiated.


Treatment-related complications included alopecia in 9 patients, nonbloody diarrhea in 6 patients, a baseline weight loss of > 10% in 5 patients, Grade (according to the National Cancer Institute Common Toxicity Scale) 3-4 neutropenia in 3 patients, Grade 3-4 thrombocytopenia in 3 patients, and Grade 3-4 anemia in 2 patients. There were no treatment-related deaths reported. After 1 cycle of etoposide, 3 patients (30%) demonstrated progressive disease, 2 patients (20%) achieved a partial response, and 5 patients (50%) maintained stable disease. The overall median response or stable disease duration (disease-free progression) was 15 months (range, 2.5-45+ months). The overall median survival was 17.5 months (range, 3-45+ months).


Chronic oral etoposide appears to be well tolerated, has modest toxicity, and had apparent activity in the small cohort of adults in the current study with surgically and medically refractory, recurrent, intradural intramedullary SCE.

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