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Jason Sheehan, Douglas Kondziolka, John Flickinger and L. Dade Lunsford

Object. Lung carcinoma is the leading cause of death from cancer. More than 50% of those with small cell lung cancer develop a brain metastasis. Corticosteroid agents, radiotherapy, and resection have been the mainstays of treatment. Nonetheless, median survival for patients with small cell lung carcinoma metastasis is approximately 4 to 5 months after cranial irradiation. In this study the authors examine the efficacy of gamma knife surgery for treating recurrent small cell lung carcinoma metastases to the brain following tumor growth in patients who have previously undergone radiation therapy, and they evaluate factors affecting survival.

Methods. A retrospective review of 27 patients (47 recurrent small cell lung cancer brain metastases) undergoing radiosurgery was performed. Clinical and radiographic data obtained during a 14-year treatment period were collected. Multivariate analysis was utilized to determine significant prognostic factors influencing survival.

The overall median survival was 18 months after the diagnosis of brain metastases. In multivariate analysis, factors significantly affecting survival included: 1) tumor volume (p = 0.0042); 2) preoperative Karnofsky Performance Scale score (p = 0.0035); and 3) time between initial lung cancer diagnosis and development of brain metastasis (p = 0.0127). Postradiosurgical imaging of the brain metastases revealed that 62% decreased, 19% remained stable, and 19% eventually increased in size. One patient later underwent a craniotomy and tumor resection for a tumor refractory to radiosurgery and radiation therapy. In three patients new brain metastases were demonstrating on follow-up imaging.

Conclusions. Stereotactic radiosurgery for recurrent small cell lung carcinoma metastases provided effective local tumor control in the majority of patients. Early detection of brain metastases, aggressive treatment of systemic disease, and a therapeutic strategy including radiosurgery can extend survival.