Brainstem gliomas, constituting approximately 10% of all childhood central nervous system tumors, remain the most resistant of all brain tumors to therapy. A subgroup of high‐risk patients with tumors that diffusely involve the brainstem or that microscopically demonstrate foci of anaplasia on biopsy specimens rarely survive after treatment. Conventional doses of radiotherapy result in temporary clinical improvement in the majority of these high‐risk patients; however, few if any remain alive 18 months after treatment. Hyperfractionated radiotherapy, with delivery of larger numbers of smaller fractions of radiotherapy, is a possible way to increase tumor control without increasing neurological toxicity. In 1985, a multiinstitutional phase I/phase II trial, using 100 cGy of radiation therapy twice daily to a total dose of 7,200 cGy, was undertaken for patients with high‐risk brainstem gliomas. At the time of writing, 24 (69%) had developed progressive disease and 11 remained in continuous progression‐free remission. Actuarial progression‐free survival at 20 months is approximately 30% Twenty‐three of 31 evaluable patients had an objective radiographic response to therapy. In comparison to both historical control patients and patients treated in a previous trial using 6,480 cGy of hyperfractionated radiation therapy, there was a statistically significant improvement in progression‐free survival rate for patients treated with 7,200 cGy of hyperfractionated radiation therapy (p < 0.01). To date no patient has died as a result of treatment. Six patients developed transient neurological deterioration or cystic intralesional changes, as demonstrated on magnetic resonance imaging, within 6 weeks of the completion of radiotherapy. Postmortem examination performed in 7 patients did not disclose significant radiation necrosis. The results of this study suggest that further investigations into the potential benefits of hyperfractionated radiation therapy for children with brainstem gliomas are warranted.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology