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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1991 Aug;21(3):637-43.

Prophylactic cranial irradiation for lung cancer patients at high risk for development of cerebral metastasis: results of a prospective randomized trial conducted by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group.

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  • 1Radiological Associates of Sacramento, CA.


Beginning in February 1984, 187 evaluable patients with adenocarcinoma or large cell carcinoma of the lung clinically confined to the chest were randomized to receive either conventionally fractionated thoracic irradiation alone or thoracic irradiation with concurrent, prophylactic cranial irradiation. The study population included 161 patients treated for medically or surgically inoperable primary cancers, and 26 patients undergoing adjuvant postoperative mediastinal irradiation following attempted curative resection of primary cancers found to have metastasized to hilar or mediastinal lymph nodes. Elective brain irradiation was not effective in preventing the clinical appearance of brain metastases, although the time to develop brain metastases appears to have been delayed. Eighteen of 94 patients (19%) randomized to chest irradiation alone have developed brain metastases as opposed to 8/93 patients (9%) randomized to receive prophylactic cranial irradiation (p = .10). No survival difference was observed between the treatment arms. Among the 26 patients undergoing prior resection of all gross intrathoracic disease, brain metastases were observed in 3/12 patients (25%) receiving adjuvant chest irradiation alone, compared to none of 14 receiving prophylactic cranial irradiation (p = .06). In the absence of fully reliable therapy for the primary disease, and without effective systemic therapy preventing dissemination to other, extrathoracic sites, prophylactic cranial irradiation for inoperable non-small cell lung cancer cannot be justified in routine clinical practice. Further investigation in the adjuvant, postoperative setting may be warranted.

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