Does the incidence and outcome of brain metastases in locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer justify prophylactic cranial irradiation or early detection?
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OBJECTIVE: The radical treatment of locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer (LA-NSCLC) currently involves combined modality therapy (CMT) with the use of chemotherapy in addition to radiation therapy and/or surgery. Chemotherapy has been shown to improve survival, but does not alter brain relapse. We reviewed the outcomes of Stage IIIA and IIIB LA-NSCLC patients treated with CMT at our institution. We assessed the incidence of brain metastases and the management and outcome of these patients. METHODS: Using our radiation-planning database (RSTS), we identified 230 consecutive patients from the years 1999 and 2000 who received radical radiation therapy to the lung. Extracting data from the chart, we identified 83 patients who were treated radically with chemotherapy, radiation and possibly surgery. These patients form the basis of this study. RESULTS: At 2 years, the actuarial rates for any brain failure, first failure in the brain and sole failure in the brain were 34.2%, 24.6% and 11.0%, respectively. Age was the only factor among sex, histology, stage, weight loss and the timing of chemotherapy and radiation that predicted for an increased risk of first failure in the brain. Patients less than age 60 had a risk of 25.6% versus 11.4% for those greater than 60 (p = 0.022). Among the patients who failed first in the brain, those who had aggressive management of their brain metastases with surgical resection in addition to whole brain radiotherapy had a median survival of 26.3 months compared with 3.3 months for those treated with palliative whole brain radiotherapy alone. CONCLUSION: Brain metastases are common in patients with LA-NSCLC treated with CMT. These patients may benefit from either prophylactic cranial irradiation or early detection and aggressive treatment of brain metastases.
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