The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) evidence-based review of the role of radiosurgery for brain metastases
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PURPOSE: To systematically review the evidence for the use of stereotactic radiosurgery in adult patients with brain metastases. METHODS: Key clinical questions to be addressed in this evidence-based review were identified. Outcomes considered were overall survival, quality of life or symptom control, brain tumor control or response and toxicity. MEDLINE (1990-2004 June Week 2), CANCERLIT (1990-2003), CINAHL (1990-2004 June Week 2), EMBASE (1990-2004 Week 25), and the Cochrane library (2004 issue 2) databases were searched using OVID. In addition, the Physician Data Query clinical trials database, the proceedings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) (1997-2004), ASTRO (1997-2004), and the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ESTRO) (1997-2003) were searched. Data from the literature search were reviewed and tabulated. This process included an assessment of the level of evidence. RESULTS: For patients with newly diagnosed brain metastases, managed with whole-brain radiotherapy alone vs. whole-brain radiotherapy and radiosurgery boost, there were three randomized controlled trials, zero prospective studies, and seven retrospective series (which satisfied inclusion criteria). For patients with up to three (<4 cm) newly diagnosed brain metastases (and in one study up to four brain metastases), radiosurgery boost with whole-brain radiotherapy significantly improves local brain control rates as compared with whole-brain radiotherapy alone (Level I-III evidence). In one large randomized trial, survival benefit with whole-brain radiotherapy was observed in patients with single brain metastasis. In this trial, an overall increased ability to taper down on steroid dose and an improvement in Karnofsky performance status was seen in patients who were treated with radiosurgery boost as compared with patients treated with whole-brain radiotherapy alone. However, Level I evidence regarding overall quality of life outcomes using a validated instrument has not been reported. All randomized trials showed improved local control with the addition of radiosurgery to whole-brain radiotherapy. For patients with multiple brain metastases, there is no overall survival benefit with the use of radiosurgery boost to whole-brain radiotherapy (Level I-III evidence). Radiosurgery boost is associated with a small risk of early or late toxicity. In patients treated with radiosurgery alone (withholding whole-brain radiotherapy) as initial treatment, there were 2 randomized trials, 2 prospective cohort studies, and 16 retrospective series. There is Level I to Level III evidence that the use of radiosurgery alone does not alter survival as compared to the use of whole-brain radiotherapy. However, there is Level I to Level III evidence that omission of whole-brain radiotherapy results in poorer intracranial disease control, both local and distant (defined as remaining brain, outside the radiosurgery field). Quality of life outcomes have not been adequately reported. Radiosurgery is associated with a small risk of early or late toxicity. Radiosurgery as salvage for patients with brain metastases was reported in zero randomized trials, one prospective study, and seven retrospective series. CONCLUSIONS: Based on Level I-III evidence, for selected patients with small (up to 4 cm) brain metastases (up to three in number and four in one randomized trial), the addition of radiosurgery boost to whole-brain radiotherapy improves brain control as compared with whole-brain radiotherapy alone. In patients with a single brain metastasis, radiosurgery boost with whole-brain radiotherapy improves survival. There is a small risk of toxicity associated with radiosurgery boost as compared with whole-brain radiotherapy alone. In selected patients treated with radiosurgery alone for newly diagnosed brain metastases, overall survival is not altered. However, local and distant brain control is significantly poorer with omission of upfront whole-brain radiotherapy (Level I-III evidence). Whether neurocognition or quality of life outcomes are different between initial radiosurgery alone vs. whole-brain radiotherapy (with or without radiosurgery boost) is unknown, because this has not been adequately tested. There was no statistically significant difference in overall toxicity between those treated with radiosurgery alone vs. whole-brain radiotherapy and radiosurgery boost based on an interim report from one randomized study. There is insufficient evidence as to the clinical benefit/risks radiosurgery used in the setting of recurrent or progressive brain metastases, although radiographic responses are well-documented.
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