Surgical Resection and Adjuvant Radiation Therapy in the Treatment of Skull Base Chordomas

Olabisi Sanusi, Omar Arnaout, Rudy J. Rahme, Craig Michael Horbinski, James P Chandler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: Chordomas are rare tumors of notochordal origin that are known to be locally aggressive and are often treated with surgical resection followed by adjuvant radiation therapy (RT). The accepted standard of treatment for chordomas of the mobile spine, which includes en-bloc resection with wide margins, cannot be easily applied to the chordomas of the skull base because of their proximity to critical neurovascular structures. We describe our experience with the role of surgery and adjuvant RT in the treatment of chordomas over 16 years. Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review on patients with diagnoses of clival chordoma between the years 2000 and 2015 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. We reviewed presenting symptoms, tumor location and size, extent of resection, complications, recurrence, adjuvant treatment, and follow-up duration. Results: A total of 20 patients underwent 32 surgeries. Of the 20 initial surgeries, 80% underwent gross total resection, and 20% had subtotal resection. The mean follow-up time was 60.75 months. Mean tumor volume was 23.07 cm3. Most common presenting signs and symptoms were headaches (70%), cranial nerve palsies (45%), and diplopia (55%). Diplopia was defined as complaints of double vision without any objective evidence of a cranial nerve palsy. Median time to progression was 57 months, and median overall survival was 136 months. Initial tumor volume and the need for a second dose of RT either as sole or as adjuvant treatment of a recurrence had a statistically significant effect on progression-free survival (P = 0.009, 0.009). None of the factors studied had a statistically significant effect on overall survival. Conclusions: The treatment of chordomas remain challenging and requires multimodal treatment strategies spanning different specialties. Initial tumor size and need for second dose of RT for recurrence appear to play a significant role in progression-free survival. Adjuvant RT after gross total resection may play a role in improved progression-free and overall survival in patients with clival chordomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e13-e21
JournalWorld Neurosurgery
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Chordoma
  • Prognostic factors
  • Proton beam
  • Radiosurgery
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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