Management of brain metastases

Academic Article


  • As systemic cancer therapies have improved, the natural history and importance of treating brainmetastases continues to evolve. Historically,most patients with brain metastases have been managed with whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT) with surgical resection or radiosurgery added for patients with single or few metastases. Because the potential late toxicity of WBRT is increasingly recognized when systemic tumor ismore effectively controlled, there has been increased interest in the use of focal therapies such as radiosurgery with deferred WBRT even for patients with larger numbers of metastases. Although WBRT in combination with radiosurgery or surgical resection significantly reduces central nervous system recurrences at the treated site and elsewhere in the brain, it is not clear whether a patient's quality of life is more affected by tumor recurrence or by treatment with WBRT. In our practice, most patients with fewer than 7 to 10 tumors are treated with radiosurgery alone, with WBRT initially deferred because of concerns about its late toxicity. The ongoing technical improvements in radiosurgery have made this transition away from WBRT clinically feasible. This approach also allows patients to begin systemic therapy sooner, rather than waiting 2 to 4 weeks to complete WBRT. For patients with large or very symptomatic tumors, surgical resection is performed, followed by postoperative radiosurgery to the resection cavity, again initially deferring WBRT for many patients. This focal-only approach in the postoperative setting is associated with a higher rate of subdural dissemination and needs further prospective study, as some would argue that tumor progression is the major determinant of loss of function. Ultimately, better survival will require better systemic therapy that both controls extracranial disease and penetrates the brain to reduce intracranial recurrences. Unfortunately, many clinical trials of novel agents exclude patients with brain metastases. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Stewart JG; Sawrie SM; Bag A; Han X; Fiveash JB
  • Start Page

  • 334
  • End Page

  • 346
  • Volume

  • 12
  • Issue

  • 4