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Mark T. Jennings, Rebecca Gelman and Fred Hochberg

✓ The natural history of primary intracranial germ-cell tumors (GCT's) is defined from 389 previously published cases, of which 65% were germinomas, 18% teratomas, 5% embryonal carcinomas, 7% endodermal sinus tumors, and 5% choriocarcinomas. Intracranial GCT's display specificity in site of origin. Ninety-five percent arise along the midline from the suprasellar cistern (37%) to the pineal gland (48%), and an additional 6% involve both sites. The majority of germinomas (57%) arise in the suprasellar cistern, while most nongerminomatous GCT's (68%) preferentially involve the pineal gland (p < 0.0001). The age distribution of afflicted patients is unimodal, centering with an abrupt surge in frequency in the early pubertal years; 68% of patients are diagnosed between 10 and 21 years of age. Nongerminomatous GCT's demonstrate an earlier age of onset than do germinomas (p < 0.0001). Prolonged symptomatic intervals prior to diagnosis are common in germinomas (p = 0.0007), in suprasellar GCT's (p = 0.001), and among females (p = 0.02). Parasellar germinomas commonly present with diabetes insipidus, visual field defects, and hypothalamic-pituitary failure. Nongerminomatous GCT's present as posterior third ventricular masses with hydrocephalus and midbrain compression. Germ-cell tumors may infiltrate the hypothalamus (11%), or disseminate to involve the third ventricle (22%) and spinal cord (10%). Among a subpopulation of 263 conventionally treated patients, two factors were of prognostic significance: 1) histological diagnosis; germinomas were associated with significantly longer survival than nongerminomatous GCT's (p < 0.0001); and 2) staging of the extent of disease; this emphasizes the ominous character of involvement of the hypothalamus (p = 0.0002), third ventricle (p = 0.02), or spinal cord (p = 0.01). Specific recommendations regarding the necessity of histological diagnosis and staging of the extent of disease are made in light of modern chemotherapeutic advances.

The pathogenesis of GCT's may be revealed by their specificity of origin within the positive (suprasellar cistern-suprachiasmatic nucleus) and negative (pineal) regulatory centers for gonadotropin secretion within the diencephalon. The abrupt rise in age distribution at 10 to 12 years suggests that the neuroendocrine events of puberty are an “activating” influence in the malignant expression of these embryonal tumors.

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Fred H. Hochberg and Douglas C. Miller

✓ Primary lymphoma of the central nervous system (CNS), including reticulum cell sarcoma, microglioma, and histiocytic lymphoma, represents less than 1% of all primary brain tumors. In the last 10 years, this tumor has tripled in frequency in the nonimmunosuppressed population. By 1991, the tumor will be the most common neurological neoplasm by virtue of the increase in sporadic occurrence and in the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) population. Three percent of AIDS patients will develop this tumor either prior to AIDS diagnosis or during their subsequent course. In addition to acquired immunosuppression, patients with inherited disorders (such as Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, severe combined immunodeficiency, and X-linked immunodeficiency) and other acquired disorders of the immune system are predisposed to the development of CNS lymphoma. Immunological studies have suggested a role for Epstein-Barr virus in the production of this tumor. Although subtypes exist, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the CNS most commonly consists of histiocytic cells or large immunoblastic cells bearing B cell surface markers in close proximity to the lateral and third ventricles. Sixty percent of these deposits are multiple, and subarachnoid invasion is seen in one-quarter of patients. Vitreous involvement of the eye occurring prior to and during the course of CNS lymphoma has been noted in up to 25% of patients. The involvement of multiple areas of the neuraxis, the eye, and multiple intracranial sites often occurs in the absence of obvious systemic lymphoma. Therapeutic trials of brain radiation therapy are associated with median survivals of less than 1 year. Uniform complete responses of intracranial deposits are recorded following chemotherapy with high-dose intravenous methotrexate, CHOP (cyclophosphamide, hydroxydaunomycin/doxorubicin, Oncovin (vincristine), and prednisone), high-dose cytosine arabinoside, and intra-arterial methotrexate with barrier modification.

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Jeffrey I. Mechanick, Fred H. Hochberg and Alan LaRocque

✓ The authors describe 15 cases with evidence of hypothalamic dysfunction 2 to 9 years following megavoltage whole-brain x-irradiation for primary glial neoplasm. The patients received 4000 to 5000 rads in 180- to 200-rad fractions. Dysfunction occurred in the absence of computerized tomography-delineated radiation necrosis or hypothalamic invasion by tumor, and antedated the onset of dementia. Fourteen patients displayed symptoms reflecting disturbances of personality, libido, thirst, appetite, or sleep. Hyperprolactinemia (with prolactin levels up to 70 ng/ml) was present in all of the nine patients so tested. Of seven patients tested with thyrotropin-releasing hormone, one demonstrated an abnormal pituitary gland response consistent with a hypothalamic disorder. Seven patients developed cognitive abnormalities. Computerized tomography scans performed a median of 4 years after tumor diagnosis revealed no hypothalamic tumor or diminished density of the hypothalamus. Cortical atrophy was present in 50% of cases and third ventricular dilatation in 58%. Hypothalamic dysfunction, heralded by endocrine, behavioral, and cognitive impairment, represents a common, subtle form of radiation damage.

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Jon Glass, Michael L. Gruber, Lawrence Cher and Fred H. Hochberg

✓ The treatment of primary central nervous system lymphoma with chemotherapy prior to whole-brain radiation therapy (WBRT) has improved outcome considerably in this previously fatal disease. Complete or partial responses to intravenous methotrexate (3.5 gm/sq m with leucovorin rescue every 3 weeks for two to four cycles) were seen in 12 of 13 patients originally treated. A total of 25 patients (including the original 13) have now been treated with one to six cycles of methotrexate every 10 to 21 days prior to WBRT. Twenty-two had partial or complete responses, with a median duration of response of 32 months. Median survival time was 33 months (42.5 months in those responding to therapy). Nine patients are alive and without evidence of disease 9 to 122 months following therapy. Acute and long-term toxicities were minimal. Systemic methotrexate administration prior to WBRT is well tolerated and produces long-term survival.

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Rifaat Bashir, Fred H. Hochberg, Rita M. Linggood and Kathleen Hottleman

✓ High-dose 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU) infusion into the internal carotid artery following cranial irradiation in the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme is accompanied by evidence of leukoencephalopathy in a significant number of patients. In an attempt to avoid this problem, a phase I trial was performed using intracarotid BCNU infusion before irradiation. Twenty-eight patients with grade III/III astrocytoma (World Health Organization Classification, equivalent to Kernohan grade IV) received a 400-mg infusion of BCNU into the infraophthalmic carotid artery. The treatment was repeated every 4 weeks for a total of four cycles prior to cranial irradiation (5500 to 6000 cGy). The major toxic sequelae included nausea and vomiting (24%), decreased visual acuity (14%), transient cerebral ischemia (3.5%), and thrombocytopenia (3.5%). Fatal leukoencephalopathy occurred in two patients. The median survival time was 37 weeks for all evaluable patients and 56+ weeks for those completing the protocol. The tumor response to drug infusion as judged by computerized tomography (CT) was complete in 22% of patients and partial in 22%; 56% showed no CT tumor response.

Pre-irradiation intracarotid artery BCNU benefits a very small group of patients with grade III/III astrocytoma. The associated severe leukoencephalopathy makes this mode of therapy unacceptable for a phase III trial.

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Fred H. Hochberg, Leroy M. Parker, Tak Takvorian, George P. Canellos and Nicholas T. Zervas

✓ Eleven patients with recurrent malignant glioma were treated with single high doses of BCNU ranging from 600 to 1400 mg/sq m. To prevent the characteristic late myelosuppression observed after conventional doses of BCNU, autologous bone marrow harvested just before drug treatment was infused 24 to 36 hours after therapy. Higher doses of BCNU causes earlier and more profound myelosuppression; one patient died of pancytopenia, breakdown of the gut epithelium, and Clostridium septicemia 10 days after receiving 1400 mg/sq m of BCNU. All patients experienced transient emesis; four developed transient elevation of hepatic enzymes, two reversible interstitial pulmonary infiltrates, and two who received 1400 mg/sq m BCNU suffered irreversible cortical damage. Eight patients receiving 600 to 1200 mg/sq m demonstrated reconstitution of polymorphonuclear leukocytes and platelets within at least 30 days after treatment. With a follow-up time of up to 19 months, four patients improved, three stabilized, and three deteriorated and died. The median survival time was 7 months. Computerized tomography performed on patients receiving constant corticosteroids showed diminished contrast enhancement and mass effect in eight patients. High-dose BCNU at doses up to 1200 mg/sq m with marrow rescue is a feasible approach to the treatment of patients with glioblastoma.

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Alberto A. Gabbai, Fred H. Hochberg, Rita M. Linggood, Rifaat Bashir and Kathleen Holteman

✓ Thirteen patients with primary lymphoma of the central nervous system (CNS) were treated with high-dose intravenous methotrexate (MTX), 3.5 gm/sq m, followed by calcium leucovorin rescue, at 3-week intervals, for three cycles. Eleven patients subsequently received radiation therapy to the whole brain, 30 to 44 Gy. Before radiation therapy, eight patients responded completely and four partially; there was one nonresponder. The median Karnofsky score before high-dose MTX therapy was 60 and increased to 90 after treatment. Five of the eight complete responders reached a Karnofsky rating of 100. The three longest responders (one of whom received MTX only) were without recurrence of their disease at 29+, 32, and 32+ months posttherapy. The median response period is 9+ months. The median survival time from the date of the first MTX treatment is 9+ months, and the three longest survival times are 29+, 32+, and 54+ months.

All patients received corticosteroids in either unchanging or diminishing dosages during therapy. It is concluded that primary CNS lymphoma is sensitive to high-dose MTX, which provides a safe and easily administered adjuvant to radiation therapy for this neoplasm.

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Fred H. Hochberg, Amy A. Pruitt, Deborah O. Beck, Gerard DeBrun and Kenneth Davis

✓ The rationale for, methodology of, and experience with intra-arterial BCNU infusion therapy of malignant glioma are described. This approach achieves tumor levels of drug four times greater than equal doses infused intravenously, and has been used to treat 79 patients over the course of 4 years. The drug was given in 192 infraophthalmic and 66 supraophthalmic carotid artery infusions. Patients who were treated via infraophthalmic carotid artery infusion following tumor recurrence (after both operation and irradiation) survived 54 additional weeks (92 weeks after initial diagnosis). Patients who were treated with BCNU immediately after initial irradiation therapy survived 64 weeks (infraophthalmic carotid artery infusion) and 49.5 weeks (supraophthalmic carotid artery infusion). The major ocular complications (pain and diminished visual acuity) associated with infraophthalmic carotid artery infusion are avoided by selective balloon-guided supraophthalmic carotid artery administration. However, both approaches were associated with white-matter changes, seen as diminished absorption on computerized tomography scans, in 20% of patients treated following irradiation therapy. This toxicity appears to preclude intra-arterial BCNU treatment in the immediate postirradiation period. Better results are being achieved with our current therapy, which involves four infusions of BCNU (400 mg every 4 weeks) into the infraophthalmic or supraophthalmic carotid artery in advance of irradiation. Cisplatin infusions (60 to 90 mg/sq m every 5 weeks) are offered for recurrent glioblastoma.

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William T. Curry Jr., Garth Rees Cosgrove, Fred H. Hochberg, Jay Loeffler and Nicholas T. Zervas

Object. The Photon Radiosurgery System (PRS) is a miniature x-ray generator that can stereotactically irradiate intracranial tumors by using low-energy photons. Treatment with the PRS typically occurs in conjunction with stereotactic biopsy, thereby providing diagnosis and treatment in one procedure. The authors review the treatment of patients with brain metastases with the aid of the PRS and discuss the indications, advantages, and limitations of this technique.

Methods. Clinical characteristics, treatment parameters, neuroimaging-confirmed outcome, and survival were reviewed in all patients with histologically verified brain metastases who were treated with the PRS at the Massachusetts General Hospital between December 1992 and November 2000. Local control of lesions was defined as either stabilization or diminution in the size of the treated tumor as confirmed by Gd-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging.

Between December 1992 and November 2000, 72 intracranial metastatic lesions in 60 patients were treated with the PRS. Primary tumors included lung (33 patients), melanoma (15 patients), renal cell (five patients), breast (two patients), esophageal (two patients), colon (one patient), and Merkle cell (one patient) cancers, and malignant fibrous histiocytoma (one patient). Supratentorial metastases were distributed throughout the cerebrum, with only one cerebellar metastasis. The lesions ranged in diameter from 6 to 40 mm and were treated with a minimal peripheral dose of 16 Gy (range 10–20 Gy). At the last follow-up examination (median 6 months), local disease control had been achieved in 48 (81%) of 59 tumors. An actuarial analysis demonstrated that the survival rates at 6 and 12 months were 63 and 34%, respectively. Patients with a single brain metastasis survived a mean of 11 months. Complications included four patients with postoperative seizures, three with symptomatic cerebral edema, two with hemorrhagic events, and three with symptomatic radiation necrosis requiring surgery.

Conclusions. Stereotactic interstitial radiosurgery performed using the PRS can obtain local control of cerebral metastases at rates that are comparable to those achieved through open resection and external stereotactic radiosurgery. The major advantage of using the PRS is that effective treatment can be accomplished at the time of stereotactic biopsy.