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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2007 Feb 1;67(2):525-31. Epub 2006 Dec 4.

Escalation of radiation dose beyond 30 Gy in 10 fractions for metastatic spinal cord compression.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein, Luebeck, Germany.



In many centers worldwide, radiotherapy for metastatic spinal cord compression (MSCC) is performed with 30 Gy in 10 fractions. This study investigated the potential benefit of dose escalation.


Data from 922 patients with carcinomas causing MSCC were retrospectively evaluated. The outcome of 345 patients treated with 10 fractions of 3 Gy in 2 weeks was compared with the outcomes of 577 patients treated with 37.5 Gy in 15 fractions within 3 weeks or 40 Gy in 20 fractions within 4 weeks. Additionally, 10 potential prognostic factors were investigated: age, gender, performance status, tumor type, interval between cancer diagnosis and MSCC, number of involved vertebrae, other bone and visceral metastases, ambulatory status, and the interval to the development of motor deficits before radiotherapy.


Motor function improved in 19% of patients after 30 Gy in 10 fractions and in 22% after greater doses (p = 0.31). The local control (p = 0.28) and survival (p = 0.85) rates were not significantly different with doses >30 Gy. Better functional outcome was associated with the absence of visceral metastases, an interval between tumor diagnosis and MSCC of >12 months, ambulatory status, and an interval to the development of motor deficits of >7 days. Improved local control was significantly associated with no visceral metastases, improved survival with favorable histologic features (breast or prostate cancer), no visceral metastases, ambulatory status, an interval between cancer diagnosis and MSCC of >12 months, and an interval to the development of motor deficits of >7days.


Escalation of the radiation dose to >30 Gy in 10 fractions did not improve the outcomes in terms of motor function, local control, or survival but did increase the treatment time for these frequently debilitated patients. Therefore, doses >30 Gy in 10 fractions are not recommended.

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