Metastatic disease to the craniovertebral junction (CVJ) is rare but presents unique management challenges. To date, studies on using stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) for CVJ metastases have been limited to case reports and small case series. The aim of this analysis was to evaluate the utility of SRS in the management of these secondary lesions.
Clinical and radiological information from the charts of 25 patients with metastatic disease of the CVJ who were treated with SRS between 2005 and 2013 at the Stanford CyberKnife Center were retrospectively reviewed.
Seven male and 18 female patients with a median age of 58 years (range 34–94 years) were identified. The most common primary tumors were breast cancer (n = 5) and non-small cell lung cancer (n = 5), and the most frequent symptom was neck pain (n = 17). The average tumor volume treated was 15.9 cm3 (range 0.16–54.1 cm3), with a mean marginal radiation dose of 20.3 Gy (range 15–25.5 Gy). The median follow-up was 18 months (range 1–81 months), though 1 patient was lost to follow-up.
SRS provided radiographic tumor stability in over 80% of patients, offered pain alleviation in nearly two-thirds of patients, and produced no serious complications. Moreover, SRS preserved spinal stability in all but 1 patient, in whom pre-SRS stability was established. There was no evidence of radiation toxicity in the patient population. Median survival was 28 months (range 2–81 months), with survival of 13.3% at 5 years.
In the absence of unstable pathological fracture and spinal cord compression, metastatic tumors of the CVJ can be safely and effectively treated with SRS. This treatment option offers palliative pain relief and can halt tumor progression with only a low risk of complications or spinal instability.