Pre-irradiation internal carotid artery BCNU in treatment of glioblastoma multiforme

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✓ 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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Address reprint requests to: Rifaat Bashir, M.D., Brain Tumor Center, Cox Building, Massachusetts General Hospital, 14 Fruit Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02114.

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