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Anatomical determinants of occipitocervical fusion in skull base chordoma resection: a systematic review of the literature with illustrative cases

Danielle Golub, Alexander F. Küffer, Shimon Garrel, Sara Zandpazandi, Joshua D. McBriar, Siddhi Modi, Kyriakos Papadimitriou, Peter D. Costantino, Daniel M. Sciubba, and Amir R. Dehdashti

OBJECTIVE

Skull base chordomas are rare, locally osseo-destructive lesions that present unique surgical challenges due to their involvement of critical neurovascular and bony structures at the craniovertebral junction (CVJ). Radical cytoreductive surgery improves survival but also carries significant morbidity, including the potential for occipitocervical (OC) destabilization requiring instrumented fusion. The published experience on OC fusion after CVJ chordoma resection is limited, and the anatomical predictors of OC instability in this context remain unclear.

METHODS

PubMed and Embase were systematically searched according to the PRISMA guidelines for studies describing skull base chordoma resection and OC fusion. The search strategy was predefined in the authors’ PROSPERO protocol (CRD42024496158).

RESULTS

The systematic review identified 11 surgical case series describing 209 skull base chordoma patients and 116 (55.5%) who underwent OC instrumented fusion. Most patients underwent lateral approaches (n = 82) for chordoma resection, followed by midline (n = 48) and combined (n = 6) approaches. OC fusion was most often performed as a second-stage procedure (n = 53), followed by single-stage resection and fusion (n = 38). The degree of occipital condyle resection associated with OC fusion was described in 9 studies: total unilateral condylectomy reliably predicted OC fusion regardless of surgical approach. After lateral transcranial approaches, 4 studies cited at least 50%–70% unilateral condylectomy as necessitating OC fusion. After midline approaches—most frequently the endoscopic endonasal approach (EEA)—at least 75% unilateral condylectomy (or 50% bilateral condylectomy) led to OC fusion. Additionally, resection of the medial atlantoaxial joint elements (the C1 anterior arch and tip of the dens), usually via EEA, reliably necessitated OC fusion. Two illustrative cases are subsequently presented, further exemplifying how the extent of CVJ bony elements removed via EEA to achieve complete chordoma resection predicts the need for OC fusion.

CONCLUSIONS

Unilateral total condylectomy, 50% bilateral condylectomy, and resection of the medial atlantoaxial joint elements were the most frequently described independent predictors of OC fusion in skull base chordoma resection. Additionally, consistent with the occipital condyle harboring a significantly thicker joint capsule at its posterolateral aspect, an anterior midline approach seems to tolerate a greater degree of condylar resection (75%) than a lateral transcranial approach (50%–70%) prior to generating OC instability.

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The burden of skull base chordomas: insights from a meta-analysis of observational studies

Giorgio Fiore, Edoardo Porto, Giulio A. Bertani, Hani J. Marcus, Andrea Saladino, Gustavo Pradilla, Francesco DiMeco, and Marco Locatelli

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to provide a quantitative synthesis of the survival outcomes for patients with skull base chordomas, focusing on the role of 1) the extent of resection (gross-total [GTR] vs non-GTR), 2) the type of surgery (primary vs revision), 3) tumor histology, and 4) the different use of adjuvant therapies (proton beam radiotherapy [PBRT], photon radiotherapy [RT], or none).

METHODS

A systematic review with a meta-analysis was conducted following the 2020 PRISMA guidelines. Observational studies describing adult and pediatric patient cohorts harboring skull base chordomas were included. The primary outcome measures were represented by the 5-year overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) rates. The main intervention effects were represented by the extent of resection (GTR vs non-GTR), type of surgical excision (primary vs revision surgeries), tumor histology, and the different use of adjuvant therapies (PBRT, RT, or none). The pooled estimates were calculated using random forest models. The risk of bias was evaluated using the Joanna Briggs Institute checklist for case series.

RESULTS

Six hundred forty-four studies were identified through a database and register search. After study selection, 51 studies and 3871 patients were included in the meta-analysis. The overall 5-year OS rate was 73%, which increased to 84% among patients undergoing GTR. The overall 5-year PFS rate was 52%, increasing to 74% for patients receiving GTR. The 5-year OS and PFS rates for patients undergoing PBRT were 86% and 71%, compared with 71% and 54% for patients receiving RT, and 55% and 25% when no adjuvant treatments were used. Patients undergoing their first surgery had 2.13-fold greater chances of being disease-free and 1.4-fold greater chances of being alive at 5 years follow-up compared with patients who received a revision surgery. Patients harboring chondroid chordomas had 1.13- and 1.9-fold greater chances of being alive at 5 years compared with patients with conventional and de-differentiated chordomas, respectively. The overall risk of bias was low in the included studies.

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this comprehensive meta-analysis highlight the tremendous impact of GTR and adjuvant PBRT on improving OS and PFS of patients harboring skull base chordomas, with better survival rates demonstrated for patients with chondroid tumors. Even in experienced hands, the rate of surgical morbidity remains high. Proper management in high-volume centers is mandatory to reach the expected resection goal at the first surgical attempt and to reduce surgical morbidity. The introduction of the endoscopic endonasal approach was related to improved surgical and functional outcomes.

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Characterizing the presentation, management, and clinical outcomes of patients with intradural spinal chordomas: a systematic review

Max A. Saint-Germain, Patrick Kramer, Carly Weber-Levine, Kelly Jiang, Abdel-Hameed Al-Mistarehi, Kristin J. Redmond, Sang H. Lee, Chetan Bettegowda, Nicholas Theodore, and Daniel Lubelski

OBJECTIVE

Chordomas are locally aggressive neoplasms of the spine or skull base that arise from embryonic remnants of the notochord. Intradural chordomas represent a rare subset of these neoplasms, and few studies have described intradural chordomas in the spine. This review evaluates the presentation, management, and outcomes of intradural spinal chordomas.

METHODS

A systematic review of PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Scopus, and Web of Science was performed. Studies describing at least 1 case of intradural chordomas anywhere in the spine were included. Extracted details included presenting symptoms, radiological findings, treatment course, follow-up, and disease progression.

RESULTS

Thirty-one studies, with a total of 41 patients, were included in this review. Seventy-six percent (31/41) of patients had primary intradural tumors, whereas 24% (10/41) presented with metastasis. The most common signs and symptoms were pain (n = 27, 66%); motor deficits (n = 20, 49%); sensory deficits (n = 17, 42%); and gait disturbance (n = 10, 24%). The most common treatment for intradural chordoma was resection and postoperative radiotherapy. Sixty-six percent (19/29) of patients reported improvement or complete resolution of symptoms after surgery. The recurrence rate was 37% (10/27), and the complication rate was 25% (6/24). The median progression-free survival was 24 months (range 4–72 months). Four patient deaths were reported. The median follow-up time was 12 months (range 13 days–84 months).

CONCLUSIONS

Treatment of intradural spinal chordomas primarily involves resection and radiotherapy. A significant challenge and complication in management is spinal tumor seeding after resection, with 9 studies proposing seeding as a mechanism of tumor metastasis in 11 cases. Factors such as tumor size, Ki-67 positivity, and distant metastasis may correlate with worse outcomes and demonstrate potential as prognostic indicators for intradural spinal chordomas. Further research is needed to improve understanding of this tumor and develop optimal treatment paradigms for these patients.

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A comparison of endoscopic endonasal versus open approaches for skull base chordoma: a comprehensive National Cancer Database analysis

Justin M. Soffer, Ruben Ulloa, Sonja Chen, Ryan S. Ziltzer, Vijay A. Patel, and Sean P. Polster

OBJECTIVE

The authors of this study aimed to investigate independent prognostic factors of survival with a particular focus on comparing the safety and efficacy of endoscopic endonasal versus open approaches in the surgical management of skull base chordoma.

METHODS

A retrospective National Cancer Database review of skull base chordoma patients was performed to capture resection cases from 2010 to 2020, evaluating overall survival (OS), early postoperative mortality, readmission rates, and hospital length of stay (LOS) between surgical approaches and the independent prognostication of death utilizing Cox multivariate regression analysis.

RESULTS

Among the 736 patients included in the cohort, 456 patients (62.0%) and 280 patients (38.0%) underwent endoscopic endonasal and open resection, respectively. These values represent a rate of change over the study period of +4.1 versus –0.14 cases per year, respectively. Gross-total resection was achieved in 32.5% of cases. A positive margin status was found in 51.8% of cases. There was no association between extent of resection and surgical approach (p = 0.257). There was no difference in OS (p = 0.562), 30- and 90-day mortality (p = 0.209 and 0.126, respectively), and 30-day readmission (p = 0.438) between the two surgical groups. The mean LOS was reduced by 2.1 days in the endoscopic cohort (p = 0.013) compared with the open approach cohort. Finally, multivariate analysis revealed a tumor size ≥ 4 cm (HR 4.03, p = 0.005) and public insurance (HR 2.76, p = 0.004) as negative predictors of survival and treatment at an academic center (HR 0.36, p = 0.043) as a positive prognosticator of survival.

CONCLUSIONS

The endoscopic endonasal approach has been increasingly utilized over time and touts noninferiority with respect to safety and efficacy with a marked improvement in LOS, which carries substantial implications for both healthcare costs and enhanced patient recovery. Future prospective studies are necessary to further delineate trends and surgical outcomes for skull base chordoma.

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EP300 through upregulating the expression of vimentin to promote the progression of chordoma

Lingzhi Wen, Bin Xie, Hui Li, Jun Huang, Ying Shi, Yongguang Tao, and Yuanbing Chen

OBJECTIVE

There is a lack of effective drugs to treat the progression and recurrence of chordoma, which is widely resistant to treatment in chemotherapy. The authors investigated the functional and therapeutic relevance of the E1A-binding protein p300 (EP300) in chordoma.

METHODS

The expression of EP300 and vimentin was examined in specimens from 9 patients with primary and recurrent chordoma with immunohistochemistry. The biological functions of EP300 were evaluated with Cell Counting Kit-8, clonogenic assays, and transwell assays. The effects of EP300 inhibitors (C646 and SGC-CBP30) on chordoma cell motility were assessed with these assays. The effect of the combination of EP300 inhibitors and cisplatin on chordoma cells was evaluated with clonogenic assays. Reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction and Western blot techniques were used to explore the potential mechanism of EP300 through upregulation of the expression of vimentin to promote the progression of chordoma.

RESULTS

Immunohistochemistry analysis revealed a positive correlation between elevated EP300 expression levels and recurrence. The upregulation of EP300 stimulated the growth of and increased the migratory and invasive capabilities of chordoma cells, along with upregulating vimentin expression and consequently impacting their invasive properties. Conversely, EP300 inhibitors decreased cell proliferation and downregulated vimentin. Furthermore, the combination of EP300 inhibition and cisplatin exhibited an enhanced anticancer effect on chordoma cells, indicating that EP300 may influence chordoma sensitivity to chemotherapy.

CONCLUSIONS

These findings indicate that EP300 functions as an oncogene in chordoma. Targeting EP300 offers a novel approach to the development and clinical treatment of chordoma.

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Introduction. Chordoma: updates and advances

Paul A. Gardner, Sebastien Froelich, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Shannon M. MacDonald, Maria Peris Celda, Shaan M. Raza, and Georgios A. Zenonos

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Long-term outcome of primary clival chordomas: a single-center retrospective study with an emphasis on the timing of recurrences based on the primary treatment

Sukwoo Hong, Yuki Shinya, Anita Mahajan, Nadia N. Laack, Erin K. O’Brien, Janalee K. Stokken, Jeffrey R. Janus, Aditya Raghunathan, Michael J. Link, and Jamie J. Van Gompel

OBJECTIVE

This study aimed to provide data on extended outcomes in primary clival chordomas, focusing on progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS).

METHODS

A retrospective single-center analysis was conducted on patients with clival chordoma treated between 1987 and 2022 using surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, or proton radiation therapy (PRT).

RESULTS

The study included 100 patients (median age 44 years, 51% male). Surgery was performed using the endoscopic endonasal approach in 71 patients (71%). Gross-total resection (GTR) or near-total resection (NTR) was attained in 39 patients (39%). Postoperatively, new cranial nerve deficits occurred in 7%, CSF leak in 4%, and meningitis in none of the patients. Radiation therapy was performed in 79 patients (79%), with PRT in 50 patients (50%) as the primary treatment. During the median follow-up period of 73 (interquartile range [IQR] 38–132) months, 41 recurrences (41%) and 31 deaths (31%) were confirmed. Patients with GTR/NTR had a median PFS of 41 (IQR 24–70) months. Patients with subtotal resection or biopsy had a median PFS of 38 (IQR 16–97) months. The median PFS of patients who received radiation therapy was 43 (IQR 26–86) months, while that of patients who did not receive radiation therapy was 18 (IQR 5–62) months. The Kaplan-Meier method showed that patients with GTR/NTR (p = 0.007) and those who received radiation therapy (p < 0.001) had longer PFS than their counterparts. The PFS rates following primary treatment at 5, 10, 15, and 20 years were 51%, 25%, 17%, and 7%, respectively. The OS rates at the same intervals were 84%, 60%, 42%, and 34%, respectively. Multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that age < 44 years (p = 0.02), greater extent of resection (EOR; p = 0.03), and radiation therapy (p < 0.001) were associated with lower recurrence rates. Another multivariate analysis showed that age < 44 years (p = 0.01), greater EOR (p = 0.04), and freedom from recurrence (p = 0.02) were associated with lower mortality rates. Regarding pathology data, brachyury was positive in 98%, pan-cytokeratin in 93%, epithelial membrane antigen in 85%, and S100 in 74%. No immunohistochemical markers were associated with recurrence.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, younger age, maximal safe resection, and radiation therapy were important factors for longer PFS in patients with primary clival chordomas. Preventing recurrences played a crucial role in achieving longer OS.

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Multidisciplinary surgical considerations for en bloc resection of sacral chordoma: review of recent advances and a contemporary single-center series

Christian Schroeder, Weston C. de Lomba, Owen P. Leary, Rafael De la Garza Ramos, Julia S. Gillette, Thomas J. Miner, Albert S. Woo, Jared S. Fridley, Ziya L. Gokaslan, and Patricia L. Zadnik Sullivan

OBJECTIVE

Contemporary management of sacral chordomas requires maximizing the potential for recurrence-free and overall survival while minimizing treatment morbidity. En bloc resection can be performed at various levels of the sacrum, with tumor location and volume ultimately dictating the necessary extent of resection and subsequent tissue reconstruction. Because tumor resection involving the upper sacrum may be quite destabilizing, other pertinent considerations relate to instrumentation and subsequent tissue reconstruction. The primary aim of this study was to survey the surgical approaches used for managing primary sacral chordoma according to location of lumbosacral spine involvement, including a narrative review of the literature and examination of the authors’ institutional case series.

METHODS

The authors performed a narrative review of pertinent literature regarding reconstruction and complication avoidance techniques following en bloc resection of primary sacral tumors, supplemented by a contemporary series of 11 cases from their cohort. Relevant surgical anatomy, advances in instrumentation and reconstruction techniques, intraoperative imaging and navigation, soft-tissue reconstruction, and wound complication avoidance are also discussed.

RESULTS

The review of the literature identified several surgical approaches used for management of primary sacral chordoma localized to low sacral levels (mid-S2 and below), high sacral levels (involving upper S2 and above), and high sacral levels with lumbar involvement. In the contemporary case series, the majority of cases (8/11) presented as low sacral tumors that did not require instrumentation. A minority required more extensive instrumentation and reconstruction, with 2 tumors involving upper S2 and/or S1 levels and 1 tumor extending into the lower lumbar spine. En bloc resection was successfully achieved in 10 of 11 cases, with a colostomy required in 2 cases due to rectal involvement. All 11 cases underwent musculocutaneous flap wound closure by plastic surgery, with none experiencing wound complications requiring revision.

CONCLUSIONS

The modern management of sacral chordoma involves a multidisciplinary team of surgeons and intraoperative technologies to minimize surgical morbidity while optimizing oncological outcomes through en bloc resection. Most cases present with lower sacral tumors not requiring instrumentation, but stabilizing instrumentation and lumbosacral reconstruction are often required in upper sacral and lumbosacral cases. Among efforts to minimize wound-related complications, musculocutaneous flap closure stands out as an evidence-based measure that may mitigate risk.

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Optimizing radiotherapy strategies for skull base chordoma: a comprehensive meta-analysis and systematic review of treatment modalities and outcomes

Lucca B. Palavani, Pedro Borges, Filipi Fim Andreão, Jordana Borges, Sávio Batista, Leonardo B. Oliveira, Márcio Yuri Ferreira, Pedro C. Abrahão Reis, Julia Pontes, Herika Negri, Andre Beer-Furlan, Chandan Krishna, Raphael Bertani, and Marcio S. Rassi

OBJECTIVE

In the treatment of skull base chordoma (SBC) surgery is considered the mainstay approach, and gross-total resection has an established relationship with progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). However, the tumor’s location often interferes with attempts at complete resection. In this case, surgery for maximal resection followed by high-dose radiotherapy has been demonstrated to be the standard treatment. In this context, various modalities are available, yet no consensus exists on the most effective. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of different radiotherapy modalities for SBC.

METHODS

Following PRISMA guidelines, the authors systematically searched for the treatment of SBC with radiation modalities in the PubMed, Cochrane, Web of Science, and EMBASE databases. Outcomes assessed for each modality were as follows: OS, PFS, local control (LC), and complications. The random-effects model was adopted. A single-proportion analysis with 95% CI was used to measure the effects in single-arm analysis. For the comparative analysis, the OR with 95% CI was used to compare outcome treatment effects. Heterogeneity was assessed using I2 statistics, and statistical significance was defined as p < 0.05.

RESULTS

A total of 32 studies comprising 3663 patients, with 2322 patients who were treated with radiotherapeutic modalities, were included. Regarding 5-year OS findings in each modality study, the findings were as follows: in photon fractionated radiotherapy, an estimated rate of 77% (69%–84%, 568 patients); in conventional fractionated radiotherapy, 76% (65%–87%, 517 cases); in proton-based + carbon ion–based radiotherapy, 85% (82%–88%, 622 cases); and in a comparative analysis of proton-based and carbon ion–based therapy, there was an OR of 1.2 (95% CI 0.59–2.43, 306 cases). Regarding the 5-year PFS estimate, the rates were as follows: 35% (26%–45%, 95 cases) for photon fractionated therapy; 35% (25%–45%, 85 cases) for stereotactic radiotherapy; 77% (50%–100%, 180 cases) for proton-based and carbon ion–based radiotherapy; and 74% (45%–100%, 102 cases) for proton-based radiotherapy. Regarding LC in periods of 3 and 5 years after proton- and carbon ion–based therapy, the overall estimated rates were 84% (78%–90%, 326 cases) and 75% (65%–85%, 448 cases), respectively. For proton-based radiotherapy and carbon ion–based therapy, the 5-year LC rates were 76% (67%–86%, 259 cases) and 75% (59%–91%, 189 cases), respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

The analysis highlights the finding that particle-based modalities like proton beam radiotherapy and carbon ion radiotherapy are the most effective radiation therapies available for the treatment of SBC. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea that surgery followed by radiotherapy constitutes the standard treatment.

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Proton versus photon adjuvant radiotherapy: a multicenter comparative evaluation of recurrence following spinal chordoma resection

Abdul Karim Ghaith, Ryan Nguyen, Victor Gabriel El-Hajj, Alaa Montaser, Gaetano De Biase, Krishnan Ravindran, Carlos Perez-Vega, Seung Jin Lee, Asmina Dominari, Umberto Battistin, Paola Suárez-Meade, Charbel Moussalem, Naresh P. Patel, Maziyar A. Kalani, Michelle J. Clarke, Peter S. Rose, Mohamad Bydon, Kingsley Abode-Iyamah, and Oluwaseun O. Akinduro

OBJECTIVE

Chordomas are rare tumors of the skull base and spine believed to arise from the vestiges of the embryonic notochord. These tumors are locally aggressive and frequently recur following resection and adjuvant radiotherapy. Proton therapy has been introduced as a tissue-sparing option because of the higher level of precision that proton-beam techniques offer compared with traditional photon radiotherapy. This study aimed to compare recurrence in patients with chordomas receiving proton versus photon radiotherapy following resection by applying tree-based machine learning models.

METHODS

The clinical records of all patients treated with resection followed by adjuvant proton or photon radiotherapy for chordoma at Mayo Clinic were reviewed. Patient demographics, type of surgery and radiotherapy, tumor recurrence, and other variables were extracted. Decision tree classifiers were trained and tested to predict long-term recurrence based on unseen data using an 80/20 split.

RESULTS

Fifty-three patients with a mean ± SD age of 55.2 ± 13.4 years receiving surgery and adjuvant proton or photon therapy to treat chordoma were identified; most patients were male. Gross-total resection was achieved in 54.7% of cases. Proton therapy was the most common adjuvant radiotherapy (84.9%), followed by conventional or external-beam radiation therapy (9.4%) and stereotactic radiosurgery (5.7%). Patients receiving proton therapy exhibited a 40% likelihood of having recurrence, significantly lower than the 88% likelihood observed in those treated with nonproton therapy. This was confirmed on logistic regression analysis adjusted for extent of tumor resection and tumor location, which revealed that proton adjuvant radiotherapy was associated with a decreased risk of recurrence (OR 0.1, 95% CI 0.01–0.71; p = 0.047) compared with photon therapy. The decision tree algorithm predicted recurrence with an accuracy of 90% (95% CI 55.5%–99.8%), with the lowest risk of recurrence observed in patients receiving gross-total resection with adjuvant proton therapy (23%).

CONCLUSIONS

Following resection, adjuvant proton therapy was associated with a lower risk of chordoma recurrence compared with photon therapy. The described machine learning models were able to predict tumor progression based on the extent of tumor resection and adjuvant radiotherapy modality used.