Object. The goal of this study was to examine the role of stereotactic radiosurgery in the treatment of patients with recurrent or unresectable pilocytic astrocytomas.
Methods. During a 13-year interval, 37 patients (median age 14 years) required multimodal treatment of recurrent or unresectable pilocytic astrocytomas. Tumors involved the brainstem in 18 patients, cerebellum in three, thalamus in five, temporal lobe in four, and parietal lobe in two, as well as the hypothalamus, optic tract, corpus callosum, insular cortex, and third ventricle in one patient each. Diagnosis was confirmed with the aid of stereotactic biopsy in 12 patients, open biopsy in five, partial resection in eight, and near-total resection in 12. Multimodal treatment included fractionated radiation therapy in 10 patients, stereotactic intracavitary irradiation of tumor in four, chemotherapy in two, cyst drainage in six, ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement in three, and additional cytoreductive surgery in four. Tumor volumes varied from 0.42 to 25 cm3. The median radiosurgical dose to the tumor margin was 15 Gy (range 9.6–22.5 Gy).
After radiosurgery, serial imaging demonstrated complete tumor resolution in 10 patients, reduced tumor volume in eight, stable tumor volume in seven, and delayed tumor progression in 12. No procedure-related death was encountered. Thirty-three (89%) of 37 patients are alive at a median follow-up period of 28 months after radiosurgery and 59 months after diagnosis. Eight patients participated in follow-up review for more than 60 months. Three patients died of local tumor progression.
Conclusions. Stereotactic radiosurgery is a valuable adjunctive strategy in the management of recurrent or unresectable pilocytic astrocytomas. Despite the favorable histological characteristics and prognosis usually associated with this neoplasm, an adverse location, recurrence, or progression of this disease requires alternative therapeutic approaches such as radiosurgery.