Diagnosis, treatment, and survival in spinal dissemination of primary intracranial glioblastoma: systematic literature review

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Spinal metastases from primary intracranial glioblastoma (GBM) are infrequently reported, and the disease has yet to be well characterized. A more accurate description of its clinical presentation and patient survival may improve understanding of this pathology, guide patient care, and advocate for increased inclusion in GBM research. The authors sought to describe the clinical presentation, treatment patterns, and survival in patients with drop metastases secondary to primary intracranial GBM.


A systematic review was performed using the PRISMA guidelines. PubMed/MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, and Cochrane databases were queried for abstracts that included patients with primary intracranial GBM and metastases to the spinal axis. Descriptive statistics were used to evaluate characteristics of the primary brain lesion, timing of spinal metastases, clinical symptoms, anatomical location of the metastases, and survival and treatment parameters. Kaplan-Meier analysis and log-rank analysis of the survival curves were performed for selected subgroups.


Of 1225 abstracts that resulted from the search, 51 articles were selected, yielding 86 subjects. The patients’ mean age was 46.78 years and 59.74% were male. The most common symptom was lumbago or cervicalgia (90.24%), and this was followed by paraparesis (86.00%). The actuarial median survival after the detection of spinal metastases was 2.8 months and the mean survival was 2.72 months (95% CI 2.59–4.85), with a 1-year cumulative survival probability of 2.7% (95% CI 0.51%–8.33%). A diagnosis of leptomeningeal disease, present in 53.54% of the patients, was correlated, and significantly worse survival was on log-rank analysis in patients with leptomeningeal disease (p = 0.0046; median survival 2.5 months [95% CI 2–3] vs 4.0 months [95% CI 2–6]).


This study established baseline characteristics of GBMs metastatic to the spinal axis. The prognosis is poor, though these results will provide patients and clinicians with more accurate survival estimates. The quality of studies reporting on this disease pathology is still limited. There is significant need for improved reporting methods for spinal metastases, either through enrollment of these patients in clinical trials or through increased granularity of coding for metastatic central nervous system diseases in cancer databases.

ABBREVIATIONS GBM = glioblastoma.

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 (PDF 489 KB)
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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Christina Huang Wright: University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Cleveland, OH. christina.wright@uhhospitals.org.INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online August 2, 2019; DOI: 10.3171/2019.5.SPINE19164.Disclosures Dr. Sajatovic reports receiving clinical or research support from Otsuka, Alkermes, Janssen, the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, Reuter Foundation, Woodruff Foundation, Reinberger Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; being a consultant for Alkermes, Bracket, Otsuka, Janssen, Neurocrine, and Health Analytics; and receiving publication royalties from Springer Press, Johns Hopkins University Press, Oxford Press, and UpToDate.


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