Radiosurgery Extends Survival for Brain Cancer Patients
PITTSBURGH, October 7, 1997 — Stereotactic radiosurgery, in which tumors are treated with intensely focused gamma radiation, significantly extended the lives of patients with malignant brain tumors, according to a study by neurosurgeons at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The study, in the October issue of the journal Neurosurgery, looked at 107 patients who had either glioblastoma multiforme or anaplastic astrocytomas, both malignant and often fatal brain tumors.
"These tumors are associated with poor outcome," according to Douglas Kondziolka, M.D., associate professor of neurological surgery and radiation oncology and principal author of the study. "Most patients eventually die within 12 to 24 months of diagnosis as a result of disease progression. The tumors invade the brain and cause progressive neurologic symptoms such as paralysis, mental changes, headaches and seizures."
Patients were treated with gamma knife radiosurgery either as part of their planned group of primary treatments or after other treatments failed. The gamma knife delivers a focused amount of radiation in a single treatment session. Tumors that were treated were generally one and one-half inches in diameter or less. Patients are usually in the hospital only one day.
"Survival was prolonged significantly when compared with expected survival after standard radiation therapy," Dr. Kondziolka said.
For glioblastoma patients, median survival from diagnosis was 26 months and 16 months after gamma knife radiosurgery, almost doubling survival in this group of selected patients. For anaplastic astrocytoma patients, median survival was 32 months compared to expected survival of 16 to 18 months.
"No single treatment works for all patients," Dr. Kondziolka said. "This is a very exciting development in the management of one of the most challenging forms of brain cancer."