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  • Author or Editor: Ian E. McCutcheon x
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Michele R. Aizenberg, Benjamin D. Fox, Dima Suki, Ian E. McCutcheon, Ganesh Rao and Laurence D. Rhines


Patients presenting with spinal metastases from unknown primary tumors (UPTs) are rare. The authors reviewed their surgical experience to evaluate outcomes and identify predictors of survival in these patients.


This study is a retrospective analysis of patients undergoing surgery for metastatic spine disease from UPTs between June 1993 and February 2007 at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.


Fifty-one patients undergoing 52 surgical procedures were identified. The median age at spine surgery was 60 years. The median survival from time of diagnosis was 15.8 months (95% CI 8.1–23.6) and it was 8.1 months (95% CI 1.6–14.7) from time of spine surgery. Postoperative neurological function (Frankel score) was the same or improved in 94% of patients. At presentation, 77% had extraspinal disease, which was associated with poorer survival (6.4 vs 18.1 months; p = 0.041). Multiple sites (vs a single site) of spine disease did not impact survival (12.7 vs 8.7 months; p = 0.50). Patients with noncervical spinal disease survived longer than those with cervical disease (11.8 vs 6.4 months, respectively; p = 0.029). Complete versus incomplete resection at index surgery had no impact on survival duration (p > 0.5) or local recurrence (p = 1.0). Identification of a primary cancer was achieved in 31% of patients.


This is the first reported surgical series of patients with an unknown source of spinal metastases. The authors found that multiple sites of spinal disease did not influence survival; however, the presence of extraspinal disease had a negative impact. The extent of resection had no effect on survival duration or local recurrence. With an overall median survival of 8.1 months following surgery, aggressive evaluation and treatment of patients with metastatic disease of the spine from an unknown primary source is warranted.

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Christopher M. McPherson, Dima Suki, Ian E. McCutcheon, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Laurence D. Rhines and Ehud Mendel


Metastastic lesions have been reported in 5 to 40% of patients with spinal and sacrococcygeal chordoma, but few contemporary series of chordoma metastastic disease exist in the literature. Additionally, the outcome in patients with chordoma-induced metastastic neoplasms remains unclear. The authors performed a retrospective review of the neurosurgery database at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to determine the incidence of metastatic disease in a contemporary series of spinal and sacrococcygeal chordoma as well as to determine the outcomes.


Thirty-seven patients underwent surgery for spinal and sacrococcygeal chordoma between June 1, 1993, and March 31, 2004. All records were reviewed, and appropriate statistical analyses were used to compare patient data for preoperative characteristics, treatments, and outcomes.

The authors identified seven patients (19%) in whom metastatic disease developed; in three the disease had metastasized to the lungs only, in two to the lungs and liver, and in two to distant locations in the spine. There were no significant differences in age, sex, tumor location, or history of radiation treatments between patients with and those without metastases. In cases with local recurrent tumors, metastastic disease was more likely to develop than in those without recurrence (28 compared with 0%, respectively; p = 0.07). In two (12%) of 17 patients who underwent en bloc resection, metastatic disease developed, whereas it developed in five (25%) of 20 patients treated by curettage (p = 0.42). The median time from first surgery to the appearance of metastatic disease, as calculated using the Kaplan–Meier method, was 143.4 months (95% confidence interval [CI] 66.8–219.9). The median survival duration of patients with metastatic disease after the first surgery was 106 months (95% CI 55.7–155.7), and this did not differ significantly from that in patients in whom no metastases developed (p = 0.93).


Spinal chordoma metastasized to other locations in 19% of the patients in this series. In patients with local disease recurrence, metastatic lesions are more likely to develop. Metastatic lesions were shown to be aggressive in some cases. Surgery and chemotherapy can play a role in controlling metastatic disease.

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Claudio E. Tatsui, Dima Suki, Ganesh Rao, Stefan S. Kim, Abhijit Salaskar, Mustafa Aziz Hatiboglu, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Ian E. McCutcheon and Laurence D. Rhines


Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) frequently metastasizes to the spine, and the prognosis can be quite variable. Surgical removal of the tumor with spinal reconstruction has been a mainstay of palliative treatment. The ability to predict prognosis is valuable when determining the role and magnitude of surgical intervention in cancer patients. To better identify factors affecting survival in patients undergoing surgery for spinal metastasis from RCC, the authors undertook a retrospective analysis of a large patient cohort at a tertiary care cancer center.


Relevant clinical data on a consecutive series of patients who had undergone surgery for spinal metastasis of RCC between 1993 and 2007 at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center were retrospectively reviewed. Demographic data, histopathological grade of primary tumor, timing of spinal surgery relative to diagnosis, treatment history prior to surgery, neurological status, and systemic disease burden were analyzed to determine the impact of these factors on survival outcome.


The authors identified 267 patients who met the study criteria. Five-year overall survival (OS) after spine tumor resection was 7.8%, with a median OS of 11.3 months (95% CI 9.5–13.0 months). Patients with Fuhrman Grade 4 RCC had a median OS of 6.1 months (95% CI 3.5–8.7 months), which was significantly lower than the 14.3 months (95% CI 9.1–19.4 months) observed in patients with Fuhrman Grade 3 or less RCC (p < 0.001). Patients with preoperative neurological deficits had a median survival of 5.9 months (95% CI 4.1–7.7 months), which was significantly lower than the 13.5 months (95% CI 10.4–16.6 months) observed in patients with a normal neurological examination (p < 0.001). Patients whose spine was the only site of metastasis had a median OS of 19 months (95% CI 9.8–28.2 months) after surgery, significantly longer than the 9.7 months (95% CI 8.1–11.3 months) observed in patients with additional extraspinal metastasis sites (p < 0.001). Patients with nonprogressing extraspinal metastasis (no metastasis, stable, or concurrent) had a median survival of 20.6 months (95% CI 15.1–26.1 months), compared with 5.6 months (95% CI 4.4–6.8 months) in patients with progressing metastasis (p < 0.001).


The authors identified several factors influencing survival after spine surgery for metastatic spinal RCC, including grade of the original nephrectomy specimen, activity of the systemic disease, and neurological status at the time of surgery. These clinical features may help to identify patients who may benefit from aggressive surgical intervention.

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Jonathan N. Sellin, Dima Suki, Viraat Harsh, Benjamin D. Elder, Daniel K. Fahim, Ian E. McCutcheon, Ganesh Rao, Laurence D. Rhines and Claudio E. Tatsui


Spinal metastases account for the majority of bone metastases from thyroid cancer. The objective of the current study was to analyze a series of consecutive patients undergoing spinal surgery for thyroid cancer metastases in order to identify factors that influence overall survival.


The authors retrospectively reviewed the records of all patients who underwent surgery for spinal metastases from thyroid cancer between 1993 and 2010 at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.


Forty-three patients met the study criteria. Median overall survival was 15.4 months (95% CI 2.8–27.9 months) based on the Kaplan-Meier method. The median follow-up duration for the 4 patients who were alive at the end of the study was 39.4 months (range 1.7–62.6 months). On the multivariate Cox analysis, progressive systemic disease at spine surgery and postoperative complications were associated with worse overall survival (HR 8.98 [95% CI 3.46–23.30], p < 0.001; and HR 2.86 [95% CI 1.30–6.31], p = 0.009, respectively). Additionally, preoperative neurological deficit was significantly associated with worse overall survival on the multivariate analysis (HR 3.01 [95% CI 1.34–6.79], p = 0.008). Conversely, preoperative embolization was significantly associated with improved overall survival on the multivariate analysis (HR 0.43 [95% CI 0.20–0.94], p = 0.04). Preoperative embolization and longer posterior construct length were significantly associated with fewer and greater complications, respectively, on the univariate analysis (OR 0.24 [95% CI 0.06–0.93] p = 0.04; and OR 1.24 [95% CI 1.02–1.52], p = 0.03), but not the multivariate analysis.


Progressive systemic disease, postoperative complications, and preoperative neurological deficits were significantly associated with worse overall survival, while preoperative spinal embolization was associated with improved overall survival. These factors should be taken into consideration when considering such patients for surgery. Preoperative embolization and posterior construct length significantly influenced the incidence of postoperative complications only on the univariate analysis.

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Ganesh Rao, Dima Suki, Indro Chakrabarti, Iman Feiz-Erfan, Milan G. Mody, Ian E. McCutcheon, Ziya Gokaslan, Shreyaskumar Patel and Laurence D. Rhines


Sarcomas of the spine are a challenging problem due to their frequent and extensive involvement of multiple spinal segments and high recurrence rates. Gross-total resection to negative margins, with preservation of neurological function and palliation of pain, is the surgical goal and may be achieved using either intralesional resection or en bloc excision. The authors report outcomes of surgery for primary and metastatic sarcomas of the mobile spine in a large patient series.


A retrospective review of patients undergoing resection for sarcomas of the mobile spine between 1993 and 2005 was undertaken. Sarcomas were classified by histology study results and as either primary or metastatic. Details of the surgical approach, levels of involvement, and operative complications were recorded. Outcome measures included neurological function, palliation of pain, local recurrence, and overall survival.


Eighty patients underwent 110 resections of either primary or metastatic sarcomas of the mobile spine. Twenty-nine lesions were primary sarcomas (36%) and 51 were metastatic sarcomas (64%). Intralesional resections were performed in 98 surgeries (89%) and en bloc resections were performed in 12 (11%). Median survival from surgery for all patients was 20.6 months. Median survival for patients with a primary sarcoma of the spine was 40.2 months and was 17.3 months for patients with a metastatic sarcoma. Predictors of improved survival included a chondrosarcoma histological type and a better preoperative functional status, whereas osteosarcoma and a high-grade tumor were negative influences on survival. Multivariate analysis showed that only a high-grade tumor was an independent predictor of shorter overall survival. American Spinal Injury Association scale grades were maintained or improved in 97% of patients postoperatively, and there was a significant decrease in pain scores postoperatively. No significant differences in survival or local recurrence rates between intralesional or en bloc resections for either primary or metastatic spine sarcomas were found.


Surgery for primary or metastatic sarcoma of the spine is associated with an improvement in neurological function and palliation of pain. The results of this study show a significant difference in patient survival for primary versus metastatic spine sarcomas. The results do not show a statistically significant benefit in survival or local recurrence rates for en bloc versus intralesional resections for either metastatic or primary sarcomas of the spine, but this may be due to the small number of patients undergoing en bloc resections.