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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1997 Mar 15;37(5):997-1003.

Radiosurgery for skull base malignancies and nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Stanford University Medical Center, CA, USA.



Patients with skull base lesions present a challenging management problem because of intractable symptoms and limited therapeutic options. In 1989 we began treating selected patients with skull base lesions using linac stereotactic radiosurgery. In this study the efficacy and toxicity of this therapeutic modality is investigated.


Forty-seven patients with 59 malignant skull base lesions were treated with linac radiosurgery between 1989 and 1995. Eleven patients were treated for primary nasopharyngeal carcinoma using radiosurgery as a boost (7 Gy-16 Gy, median: 12 Gy) to the nasopharynx after a course of fractionated radiotherapy (64.8-70 Gy) without chemotherapy. Another 37 patients were treated for 48 skull base metastases or local recurrences from primary head and neck cancers. Eight of these patients had 12 locally recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma lesions occuring 6-96 months after standard radiotherapy, including one patient with nasopharyngeal carcinoma who developed a regional relapse after radiotherapy with a stereotactic boost. Lesion volumes by CT or MRI ranged from 0 to 51 cc (median: 8 cc). Radiation doses of 7.0 Gy-35.0 Gy (median: 20.0 Gy) were delivered to recurrent lesions, usually as a single fraction.


All 11 patients who received radiosurgery as a nasopharyngeal boost after standard fractionated radiotherapy remain locally controlled (follow-up: 2-34 months, median: 18). However, one patient required a second radiosurgical treatment for regional relapse outside the initial radiosurgery volume. Thirty-three of 48 (69%) recurrent/metastatic lesions have been locally controlled, including 7 of 12 locally recurrent nasopharyngeal lesions. Follow-up for all patients with recurrent lesions ranged from 1 to 60 months (median: 9 months). Local control did not correlate with lesion size (p = 0.80), histology (p = 0.78), or radiosurgical dose (p = 0.44). Major complications developed after 5 of 59 treatments (8.4%), including three cranial nerve palsies, one CSF leak, and one trismus. Complications were not correlated with radiosurgical volume (p = 0.20), prior skull base irradiation (p = 0.90), or radiosurgery dose > 20 Gy (p = 0.49).


Stereotactic radiosurgery is a reasonable treatment modality for patients with skull base malignancies, including patients with primary and recurrent nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The dose distribution obtained with stereotactic radiosurgery provides better homogeneity than an intracavitary implant when used as a boost for nasopharyngeal lesions, especially lesions which involve areas distant to the nasopharyngeal mucosa.

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