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Douglas Kondziolka, L. Dade Lunsford, Robert J. Coffey and John C. Flickinger

✓ Stereotactic radiosurgery has an expanding role in the management of selected intracranial tumors. In an initial 30-month experience using the 201-source cobalt-60 gamma knife at the University of Pittsburgh, 50 patients with meningiomas were treated. The most frequent site of origin was the skull base. Previously, 36 patients (72%) had undergone at least one craniotomy and four patients (8%) had received fractionated external beam radiation therapy. Stereotactic radiosurgery was the primary treatment modality in 16 patients (32%) with symptomatic tumors demonstrated by neuroimaging. Computer imaging-generated isodose plans (with one to five irradiation isocenters) for single-treatment irradiation gave optimal (≥ 50% isodose line) coverage in 44 patients (88%). The proximity of cranial nerves or vascular, pituitary, and brain-stem structures to the often convoluted tumor mass was crucial to dose selection. Serial imaging studies were evaluated in all 50 patients. Twenty-four patients were examined between 12 and 36 months after treatment; 13 (54%) showed a reduction in tumor volume while nine (38%) showed no change. Of 26 patients evaluated between 6 and 12 months after treatment, four showed a decrease in tumor size while 22 showed no change. Two patients (both with large tumors that received suboptimal irradiation) had delayed tumor growth outside the radiosurgical treatment volume. The actuarial 2-year tumor growth control rate was 96%. Between 3 and 12 months after radiosurgery, three patients developed delayed neurological deficits that gradually improved, compatible with delayed radiation injury. Although extended follow-up monitoring over many years will be necessary to fully evaluate treatment, to date stereotactic radiosurgery has proved to be a relatively safe and effective therapy for selected patients with symptomatic meningiomas, including those who failed surgical resection. Radiosurgery was an effective primary treatment alternative for those patients whose advanced age, medical condition, or high-risk tumor location mitigated against surgical resection.

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L. Dade Lunsford, Douglas Kondziolka, John C. Flickinger, David J. Bissonette, Charles A. Jungreis, Ann H. Maitz, Joseph A. Horton and Robert J. Coffey

✓ Stereotactic radiosurgery successfully obliterates carefully selected arteriovenous malformations (AVM's) of the brain. In an initial 3-year experience using the 201-source cobalt-60 gamma knife at the University of Pittsburgh, 227 patients with AVM's were treated. Symptoms at presentation included prior hemorrhage in 143 patients (63%), headache in 104 (46%), and seizures in 70 (31%). Neurological deficits were present in 102 patients (45%). Prior surgical resection (resulting in subtotal removal) had been performed in 36 patients (16%). In 47 selected patients (21%), embolization procedures were performed in an attempt to reduce the AVM size prior to radiosurgery. The lesions were classified according to the Spetzler grading system: 64 (28%) were Grade VI (inoperable), 22 (10%) were Grade IV, 90 (40%) were Grade III, 43 (19%) were Grade II, and eight (4%) were Grade I. With the aid of computer imaging-integrated isodose plans for single-treatment irradiation, total coverage of the AVM nidus was possible in 216 patients (95%). The location and volume of the AVM were the most important factors for the selection of radiation dose. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging was performed at 6-month intervals in 161 patients. Seventeen patients who had MR evidence of complete obliteration underwent angiography within 3 months of imaging: in 14 (82%) complete obliteration was confirmed. Complete angiographic obliteration was confirmed in 37 (80%) of 46 patients at 2 years, the earliest confirmation being 4 months (mean 17 months) after radiosurgery. The 2-year obliteration rates according to volume were: all eight (100%) AVM's less than 1 cu cm; 22 (85%) of 26 AVM's of 1 to 4 cu cm; and seven (58%) of 12 AVM's greater than 4 cu cm. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed postirradiation changes in 38 (24%) of 161 patients at a mean interval of 10.2 months after radiosurgery; only 10 (26%) of those 38 patients were symptomatic. In the entire series, two patients developed permanent new neurological deficits believed to be treatment-related. Two patients died of repeat hemorrhage at 6 and 23 months after treatment during the latency interval prior to obliteration.

Stereotactic radiosurgery is an important method to obliterate AVM's, especially those previously considered inoperable. Success and complication risks are related to the AVM location and the volume treated.

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Mark E. Linskey, A. Julio Martinez, Douglas Kondziolka, John C. Flickinger, Ann H. Maitz, Theresa Whiteside and L. Dade Lunsford

✓ An experimental model with xenograft transplantation into the subrenal capsule of athymic (nude) mice was used to evaluate the early response of human acoustic schwannomas to stereotactic radiosurgery. After xenograft placement, 45 mice underwent radiosurgery with single doses of 10, 20, or 40 Gy using a 201-source 60Co gamma unit (4-mm collimator, single isocenter, 80% isodose line). The 45 radiosurgery-treated xenografts were compared with 15 untreated xenografts and 15 xenografts in mice that underwent “sham radiosurgery.” All five study groups were matched for the following pretreatment variables: patient of origin, animal weight, average xenograft diameter, and percentage of xenograft surface vascularity. Immediately prior to sacrifice of the mice all xenografts were evaluated in situ to determine the average tumor diameter, tumor volume, and percentage of surface vascularity. Mice were sacrificed 2 weeks, 1 month, or 3 months after radiosurgery. Blinded histological review was performed by an independent neuropathologist.

Tumor volume was reduced 33.6% after 2 weeks (p = 0.023) and 45% after 3 months (p = 0.018) in the 40-Gy radiosurgery group. Tumor volume was reduced by 46.2% after 1 month (p = 0.0002) and 35.2% after 3 months (p = 0.032) in the 20-Gy radiosurgery group. An average volume reduction of 16.4% was observed after 3 months (p = 0.17) in the 10-Gy radiosurgery group. At 3 months after surgery, tumor surface vascularity was reduced by an average of 19.7% (p = 0.043) in the 40-Gy radiosurgery group and 5.8% (p = 0.12) in the 20-Gy radiosurgery group and was unchanged in the 10-Gy radiosurgery group and both control groups. Histological examination demonstrated a higher incidence of hemosiderin deposits (p = 0.026) and vascular mural hyalinization (p = 0.032) in radiosurgery xenografts versus control.

The subrenal capsule xenograft in nude mice was an excellent model for studying the in vivo radiobiology of acoustic schwannomas after radiosurgery. Both cellular and vascular effects could be assessed serially in situ and the model was stable even 4 months after transplantation. Additional studies investigating radiobiology over periods better approximating the time course of clinical neuroimaging changes (6 to 12 months) are warranted.

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Salvador Somaza, Douglas Kondziolka, L. Dade Lunsford, John M. Kirkwood and John C. Flickinger

✓ To determine local tumor control rates and survival of patients with melanoma metastases to the brain, the authors reviewed the results of 23 consecutive patients with a total of 32 tumors (19 patients had a solitary tumor and four had multiple tumors) who underwent adjuvant stereotactic radiosurgery. Tumor locations included the cerebral hemisphere (24 cases), brain stem (four cases), basal ganglia (two cases), and cerebellum (two cases). Fifteen patients had associated cranial symptomatology and eight had incidental metastases. All patients had tumors of 3 cm or less in diameter (mean tumor volume 2.5 cu cm), and all received fractionated whole-brain radiation therapy (30 Gy) in addition to radiosurgery (mean tumor margin dose 16 Gy). Nineteen patients were managed with both modalities at the time of diagnosis; four underwent radiosurgery 3 to 12 months after fractionated whole-brain radiotherapy. The mean patient follow-up period was 12 months (range 3 to 38 months).

After radiosurgery, eight patients improved, 13 remained stable, and two deteriorated. One patient subsequently required craniotomy because of intratumoral hemorrhage; this patient and three others are living 13 to 38 months after radiosurgery. Nineteen patients died, 18 from progression of their systemic disease and one from another hemorrhage into a new brain metastasis. The local tumor control rate was 97%. Only two patients subsequently developed new intracranial metastases. The median survival period after diagnosis was 9 months (range 3 to 38 months). The authors believe that stereotactic radiosurgery coupled with fractionated whole-brain irradiation is an effective management strategy for cerebral metastases from a melanoma. Multi-institutional trials are warranted to confirm that stereotactic radiosurgery results equal or surpass the outcome achieved with craniotomy and tumor resection.

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Olusola K. Ogunrinde, L. Dade Lunsford, John C. Flickinger and Douglas Kondziolka

✓ Twenty patients with acoustic nerve tumors (mean diameter ≤ 30 mm) and useful preoperative hearing were examined 2 years after stereotactic radiosurgery to determine the effectiveness of the surgery in the control of tumor growth and the preservation of cranial nerve function. Results showed tumor volume stabilization (12 cases) or reduction (seven cases) was achieved in a total of 19 patients (95%). Useful hearing (defined as Gardner and Robertson Class I or II) preservation was obtained in 100% of cases immediately postoperatively, 50% at 6 months, and 45% at both 1 and 2 years. Two years after stereotactic radiosurgery, facial nerve function was preserved in 90% of patients and 75% continued to have normal trigeminal nerve function. All patients returned to and maintained their preoperative functional status within 3 to 5 days after radiosurgery.

These findings indicate that stereotactic radiosurgery with multiple isocenters and narrow radiation beams is a safe and effective management strategy for progressive acoustic nerve tumors. Auditory, facial, and trigeminal nerve function can be preserved in most patients. Prevention of further growth and preservation of cranial nerve function appear to be satisfactory goals in the current management of patients with acoustic neuromas.

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L. Dade Lunsford, Salvador Somaza, Douglas Kondziolka and John C. Flickinger

✓ The authors investigated the outcome of stereotactic biopsy and radiotherapy in 35 consecutive adult patients with nonanaplastic, nonpilocytic astrocytomas who were diagnosed between 1982 and 1992. The median patient age at presentation was 32 years. All received fractionated external-beam radiation therapy (median dose 56 Gy) as the initial management strategy. Additional treatment in two patients included intracavitary irradiation with colloidal phosphorus-32.

Six patients (17%) had documented tumor progression during the follow-up interval and died. Three others died of causes unrelated to their tumor. Median survival after stereotactic biopsy and irradiation was 118 months (9.8 years). Median survival from the time of onset of neurological symptoms was 148 months (12.3 years). Only three patients required delayed cytoreductive surgery.

The outcome of brain astrocytomas, although improved because of earlier diagnosis and therapy, does not substantiate this tumor as having benign behavior; early recognition with neuroimaging, immediate histological diagnosis via stereotactic biopsy, and initial fractionated radiation therapy may provide the potential for longer survival for patients with low-grade astrocytomas. The majority of such surviving patients have a satisfactory quality of life, which is manifested by prolonged normal functional and employment status. The survival data reported in this prospective Phase I–II clinical trial suggest that stereotactic biopsy and radiation therapy are appropriate initial management strategies for astrocytomas.

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Douglas Kondziolka, L. Dade Lunsford, John C. Flickinger and John R. W. Kestle

✓ The benefits of radiosurgery for cavernous malformations are difficult to assess because of the unclear natural history of this vascular lesion, the inability to image malformation vessels, and the lack of an imaging technique that defines “cure.” The authors selected for radiosurgery 47 patients who harbored a hemorrhagic malformation in a critical intraparenchymal location remote from a pial or ependymal surface. Of these, 44 patients had experienced at least two hemorrhages before radiosurgery. The mean patient age was 39 years; six patients had previously undergone attempted surgical removal. The malformation was located in the pons/midbrain in 24 cases, the medulla in three, the thalamus in nine, the basal ganglia in three, deep in a parietal lobe in four, and deep in a temporal lobe in four. Patients had sustained initial hemorrhages from 0.5 to 12 years prior to radiosurgery (mean 4.12 years). In these patients, who were not typical of the majority of patients with cavernous malformations, there were 109 bleeds before radiosurgery in 193 prior observation-years, for a 56.5% annual hemorrhage rate (including the first hemorrhage), or an annual rate of 32% subsequent to the first hemorrhage.

The mean follow-up period after radiosurgery was 3.6 years (range 0.33–6.4 years). The proportion of patients with hemorrhage after radiosurgery was significantly reduced (p < 0.0001), as was the mean number of hemorrhages per patient (p = 0.00004). In the first 2 years after radiosurgery, there were seven bleeds in 80 observation-years (8.8% annual hemorrhage rate). In the 2- to 6-year interval after radiosurgery, the annual rate decreased to 1.1% (one bleed). After radiosurgery, 12 patients (26%) sustained neurological worsening that correlated with imaging changes. In eight patients these deficits were temporary; two underwent surgical resection and died. Two patients had new permanent deficits (4%). A significant reduction was observed in the hemorrhage rate after radiosurgery in patients who had deep hemorrhagic cavernous malformations, especially after a 2-year latency interval. This evidence provides further support to the belief that radiosurgery is an effective strategy for cavernous malformations, especially when located within the parenchyma of the brainstem or diencephalon.

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Bruce E. Pollock, L. Dade Lunsford, Douglas Kondziolka, David J. Bissonette and John C. Flickinger

✓ Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) that are located within the postgeniculate optic radiations or striate cortex are difficult to resect without creating postoperative visual defects. To reduce the risk of an AVM hemorrhage and to enhance the possibility of preserving visual function, the authors performed stereotactic radiosurgery in 34 patients with newly diagnosed or residual AVMs of the visual pathways. The mean AVM volume was 4.7 ml, and the average radiation dose to the AVM margin was 21 Gy. The median follow up was 47 months (range 16–83 months). Two (6%) of 34 patients had documented new visual field defects (central scotoma in one, and partial hemianopsia in one) after single-stage radiosurgery, but no patient developed a new permanent homonymous hemianopsia. Angiography was performed in all patients at a median of 26 months after radiosurgery: 22 (65%) had complete obliteration, 10 (29%) had a significant decrease in AVM volume, one (3%) had only a persistent early draining vein without residual nidus, and one (3%) had no change in the AVM. Thirteen (81%) of 16 patients with AVMs less of than 4 ml had complete obliteration. Five patients had second-stage stereotactic radiosurgery after angiography revealed a persistent AVM nidus; two patients eligible for follow-up angiography had complete obliteration, thereby increasing the overall series obliteration rate to 71%. The calculated annual risk of AVM bleeding (before radiographic evidence of obliteration) was 2.4%. No patient bled after angiographically confirmed obliteration.

In most patients stereotactic radiosurgery obliterates visual pathway AVMs and also preserves preoperative visual function. Multimodality management (embolization, microsurgery, or staged radiosurgery) enhances AVM obliteration and visual preservation rates.

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Douglas Kondziolka, Salvador Somaza, Christopher Comey, L. Dade Lunsford, Diana Claassen, Sudha Pandalai, Ann Maitz and John C. Flickinger

✓ To identify histological changes and effects on survival in rats harboring C6 gliomas, the authors compared radiosurgery to different fractionated radiation therapy regimens including doses of calculated biological equivalence. Rats were randomized to control (54 animals) or treatment groups after implantation of C6 glioma cells into the right frontal brain region. At 14 days, treated rats underwent stereotactic radiosurgery (35 Gy to tumor margin; 22 animals), whole-brain radiation therapy (WBRT) (20 Gy in five fractions; 18 animals), radiosurgery plus WBRT (13 animals), hemibrain radiation therapy (85 Gy in 10 fractions; 16 animals) or single-fraction hemibrain irradiation (35 Gy; 10 animals). When compared to the control group (median survival 22 days), prolonged survival was identified after radiosurgery (p < 0.0001), radiosurgery plus WBRT (p < 0.0001), WBRT alone (p = 0.0002), hemibrain radiation therapy to 85 Gy (p < 0.0001), and 35-Gy hemibrain single-fraction irradiation (p = 0.004). Compared to the control group (mean tumor diameter, 6.8 mm), the tumor size was reduced in all treatment groups except WBRT alone. Reduced tumor cell density was exhibited in rats that underwent radiosurgery (p = 0.006) and radiosurgery plus WBRT (p = 0.009) when compared with rats in the control group, a finding not observed after any fractionated regimen. Increased intratumoral edema was identified after radiosurgery (p = 0.03) and combined treatment (p = 0.05), but not after fractionated radiation therapy or 35-Gy single-fraction hemibrain irradiation. In this animal model, the addition of radiosurgery significantly increased tumor cytotoxicity, potentially at the expense of radiation effects to regional brain. We found no difference in survival benefit or tumor diameter in animals that underwent radiosurgery compared to the calculated biologically equivalent regimen of 10-fraction radiation therapy to 85 Gy. The histological responses after radiosurgery were generally greater than those achieved with biologically equivalent doses of fractionated radiation therapy.