Despite improvements in the medical and surgical management of patients with glioblastoma, tumor recurrence remains inevitable. For recurrent glioblastoma, however, the clinical value of a second resection remains uncertain. Specifically, what proportion of contrast-enhancing recurrent glioblastoma tissue must be removed to improve overall survival and what is the neurological cost of incremental resection beyond this threshold?
The authors identified 170 consecutive patients with recurrent supratentorial glioblastomas treated at the Barrow Neurological Institute from 2001 to 2011. All patients previously had a de novo glioblastoma and following their initial resection received standard temozolomide and fractionated radiotherapy.
The mean clinical follow-up was 22.6 months and no patient was lost to follow-up. At the time of recurrence, the median preoperative tumor volume was 26.1 cm3. Following re-resection, median postoperative tumor volume was 3.1 cm3, equating to an 87.4% extent of resection (EOR). The median overall survival was 19.0 months, with a median progression-free survival following re-resection of 5.2 months. Using Cox proportional hazards analysis, the variables of age, Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) score, and EOR were predictive of survival following repeat resection (p = 0.0001). Interestingly, a significant survival advantage was noted with as little as 80% EOR. Recursive partitioning analysis validated these findings and provided additional risk stratification at the highest levels of EOR. Overall, at 7 days after surgery, a deterioration in the NIH stroke scale score by 1 point or more was observed in 39.1% of patients with EOR ≥ 80% as compared with 16.7% for those with EOR < 80% (p = 0.0049). This disparity in neurological morbidity, however, did not endure beyond 30 days postoperatively (p = 0.1279).
For recurrent glioblastomas, an improvement in overall survival can be attained beyond an 80% EOR. This survival benefit must be balanced against the risk of neurological morbidity, which does increase with more aggressive cytoreduction, but only in the early postoperative period. Interestingly, this putative EOR threshold closely approximates that reported for newly diagnosed glioblastomas, suggesting that for a subset of patients, the survival benefit of microsurgical resection does not diminish despite biological progression.