Whole brain radiotherapy for brain metastases from breast cancer:...
Background Brain metastases are the most common form of intracranial cancer. The incidence of BM seems to have increased over the past decade. via BMC Cancer
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Since: Dec 05
#1 Apr 2, 2007
New Perspectives on Brain Metastasis
The initial approach to using radiation postoperatively to treat brain metastases, used to be whole brain radiation, but this was abandoned because of the substantial neurological deficits that resulted, sometimes appearing a considerable time after treatment. Whole brain radiation was routinely administered to patients after craniotomy for excision of a cerebral metastasis in an attempt to destroy any residual cancer cells at the surgical site. However, the deleterious effects of whole brain radiation, such as dementia and other irreversible neurotoxicities, became evident.
This raised the question as to whether elective postoperative whole brain radiation should be administered to patients after excision of a solitary brain metastasis. Current clinical practice, at a number of leading cancer centers, use a more focused radiation field (Radiotherapy) that includes only 2-3cm beyond the periphery of the tumor site. This begins as soon as the surgical incision has healed.
Many metastatic brain lesions are now being treated with stereotactic radiosurgery. In fact, some feel radiosurgery is the treatment of choice for most brain metastases. There are a number of radiation treatments for therapy (Stereotatic, Gamma-Knife, Cyber-Knife, Brachyradiation and IMRT to name a few). These treatments are focal and not diffuse. Unlike surgery, few lesions are inaccessible to radiosurgical treatment because of their location in the brain. Also, their generally small size and relative lack of invasion into adjacent brain tissue make brain metastases ideal candidates for radiosurgery. Multiple lesions may be treated as long as they are small.
The risk of neurotoxicity from whole brain radiation is not insignificant and this approach is not indicated in patients with a solitary brain metastasis. Observation or focal radiation is a better choice in solitary metastasis patients. Whole brain radiation can induce neurological deterioration, dementia or both. Focal radiation to the local tumor bed has been applied to patients to avoid these complications.
Aggressive treatment like surgical resection and focal radiation to the local tumor bed in patients with limited or no systemic disease can yield long-term survival. In such patients, delayed deleterious side effects of whole brain radiation therapy are particularly tragic. Within 6 months to 2 years patients can develop progressive dementia, ataxia and urinary incontinence, causing severe disability and in some, death. Delayed radiation injuries result in increased tissue pressure from edema, vascular injury leading to infarction, damage to endothelial cells and fibrinoid necrosis of small arteries and arterioles.
The results of a study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reported that treating four or more brain tumors in a single radiosurgery session resulted in improved survival compared to whole brain radiation therapy alone. Patients underwent Gamma-Knife radiosurgery and the results indicate that treating four or more brain tumors with radiosurgery is safe and effective and translates into a survival benefit for patients.
As reported in MD Anderson's OncoLog, in the past the only treatment for multiple metastases was whole brain radiation, which on its own had little effect on survival. There are now a variety of effective treatment modalities for people who have fewer than four tumors. Dr. Jeffrey Weinberg at the Department of Neurosurgery at MD Anderson has said "with a small, finite number of tumors, it may be better to treat the individual brain tumors themselves rather than the whole brain." Anderson is equipped with Linac Linear Accelerator. The critical idea is to focally treat all tumors.
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