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J Neurosurg. 2002 Dec;97(5 Suppl):499-506.

Survival and pattern of failure in brain metastasis treated with stereotactic gamma knife radiosurgery.

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The Departments of Radiation Oncology and Neurological Surgery, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA.



Gamma knife radiosurgery (GKS) has become a well-established treatment modality in the management of selected patients with brain metastasis. The authors review the management patients with these tumors treated at a single center.


Between 1994 and 2002, 458 consecutive patients with metastatic brain disease underwent GKS. There were 1305 lesions treated in 680 separate sessions. The histological diagnosis was melanoma in 231 (50%), lung cancer in 94 (20.5%), breast cancer in 38 (8.3%), renal cell carcinoma (RCC) in 29 (6.3%), colon carcinoma in 13 (2.8%), unknown primary site in 14 (3.1%), and other in 39 patients (8.5%). The median tumor volume was 0.9 cm3 and the median volume treated was 2.3 cm3. The median radiation dose was 18 Gy prescribed to a median isodose of 60%; the median dose was 20 Gy in melanoma, sarcoma, and RCC. Whole-brain radiotherapy (WBRT) either prior to or following GKS was performed in 114 patients (25%). Follow up ranged from 3 to 84 months with a median of 9 months. The median survival for all patients was 9 months and depended on tumor histology. Survival ranged from 6 months for patients with colon carcinoma, unknown primary tumors, and other tumors to 17 months for those with breast cancer. Median survival in patients with melanoma was 8 months. In multivariate analysis Karnofsky Performance Scale score (< 70 vs > 70), status of systemic disease (yes vs no), histological diagnosis, and total intracranial tumor volume were the only significant factors influencing survival. The number of brain metastases (one-five), WBRT (yes vs no), and age were not significant. Pattern of failure was different in patients with melanoma compared with those with other diagnoses. Cause of death in patients with melanoma was in 50% of the cases due to systemic disease and in 42% due to central nervous system causes, whereas it was 70% for the former and 23% for the latter in patients with other diagnoses. The treatment was well tolerated with significant late toxicity requiring craniotomy for removal of a necrotic focus in only 20 patients (4.7%).


Gamma knife radiosurgery provided an excellent palliation with low incidence of toxicity. A Phase III prospective randomized trial is required to define the role of WBRT in combination with GKS.

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