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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1997 Jul 15;38(5):1037-44.

Short-course radiotherapy (8 Gy x 2) in metastatic spinal cord compression: an effective and feasible treatment.

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Radiation Oncology Center, Perugia, Italy.



To evaluate the clinical outcome and toxicity of a short-course regimen of radiotherapy (RT) in selected metastatic spinal cord compression (MSCC) patients.


Between 1993 and 1995, 53 consecutive patients with MSCC from low radio-responsive primary tumors (non small cell lung, kidney, head and neck and gastrointestinal carcinomas, melanoma and sarcomas), or more radio-responsive ones (breast and prostate carcinomas, myeloma and lymphomas) with paresis, plegia, low performance status (PS ECOG > or = 2), and/or short life expectation, underwent short-course RT; a single fraction of 8 Gy repeated after 1 week in responders or stable patients, for a total dose of 16 Gy. Of 49 (92%) evaluable cases, 4 (8%) underwent surgery plus RT and the other 45 RT alone. Medium doses of parenteral dexamethasone (8 mg x 2/d) were given in all cases and precautional anti-emetics to those treated with fields covering the upper abdomen (20 of 49 cases). Median follow up was 25 months (range, 6-34). Response was assessed according to back pain, and motor and bladder capacity before and after RT.


Pain relief was achieved in 67% of patients and motor function response rate reached 63%. Early diagnosis and therapy were very important in predicting response to RT; all but two (91%) pretreatment walking patients and all but one (98%) with good bladder function preserved these capacities. On the contrary, when diagnosis was late, only 38% of nonambulatory patients and 44% of those with bladder retention improved. Median survival was 5 months, with a 30% probability of survival for 1 year. Length of survival was significantly longer for patients able to walk before and/or after RT. Good agreement between survival and duration of response was found with no evidence of relapse in the irradiated spine. Sickness appeared only in a few cases. Slight esophagitis was more frequent: dysphagia for solid foods in one-third of patients irradiated on the thoracic spine. Late toxicity was never recorded.


The short-course RT adopted gave a clinical outcome comparable with that resulting from more protracted regimens with only slight side effects. The use of a few large treatment fractions could be explored considering the associated advantages for patients and radiotherapy centers often overloaded by long patient waiting lists.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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