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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1993 Sep 30;27(2):189-95.

20-year experience in childhood craniopharyngioma.

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  • 1Brain Tumor Center, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115.



The management of craniopharyngioma is controversial, and surgery alone is frequently advocated. The purpose of this study was to assess the long-term impact of various treatments in childhood craniopharyngioma.


Sixty-one children < or = 21 years of age at diagnosis were treated for craniopharyngioma at Children's Hospital and the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy in Boston from 1970 to 1990. The median age was 7.5 years (range 10 months-21 years). There were 33 females and 28 males. The median follow-up was 10 years (range 2-20.5 years). Neuroimaging was available for detailed review in 53. Nine children were treated with radiotherapy alone, 15 were treated with surgery alone, and 37 were treated with both surgery and radiotherapy. All patients in the radiotherapy and surgery plus radiotherapy groups were treated with megavoltage radiation with a median dose of 5464 cGy.


All nine of the children treated with radiation therapy alone are alive; none have recurred. Nine of the 15 children treated with surgery alone have recurred (p = 0.007 Fisher exact test). Two are alive with disease, and seven are alive without disease after treatment at relapse with radiation therapy, surgery, or both. Seven of the 37 patients treated with surgery plus radiotherapy have recurred. Three of the seven patients are dead of disease, three patients are alive with disease, and one patient is alive without disease after further treatment. The 10-year actuarial overall survival was 91% for all patients. The 10-year actuarial freedom from progression for the surgery group was 31% compared with 100% for patients treated with radiation therapy only (log rank p = 0.01), and 86% for patients treated with surgery plus radiotherapy at diagnosis (p = 0.001). There were two treatment related deaths, both in the surgery plus radiotherapy group. A higher incidence of visual loss and diabetes insipidus was associated with the use of aggressive surgery. The size of the tumor at presentation correlated with an increased risk of recurrence; 5 of 6 patients with tumors > or = 5 cm experienced recurrences while only 6 of 30 recurred when the tumor was < 5 cm.


Overall survival in childhood craniopharyngioma is excellent. However, patients treated with surgery alone have a significantly worse freedom from progression when compared to patients treated with surgery and radiation therapy or radiation therapy alone.

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