The impact of the stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) prescription dose (PD) on local progression and radiation necrosis for small (≤ 2 cm) brain metastases was evaluated.
An institutional review board–approved retrospective review was performed on 896 patients with brain metastases ≤ 2 cm (3034 tumors) who were treated with 1229 SRS procedures between 2000 and 2012. Local progression and/or radiation necrosis were the primary end points. Each tumor was followed from the date of radiosurgery until one of the end points was reached or the last MRI follow-up. Various criteria were used to differentiate tumor progression and radiation necrosis, including the evaluation of serial MRIs, cerebral blood volume on perfusion MR, FDG-PET scans, and, in some cases, surgical pathology. The median radiographic follow-up per lesion was 6.2 months.
The median patient age was 56 years, and 56% of the patients were female. The most common primary pathology was non–small cell lung cancer (44%), followed by breast cancer (19%), renal cell carcinoma (14%), melanoma (11%), and small cell lung cancer (5%). The median tumor volume and median largest diameter were 0.16 cm3 and 0.8 cm, respectively. In total, 1018 lesions (34%) were larger than 1 cm in maximum diameter. The PD for 2410 tumors (80%) was 24 Gy, for 408 tumors (13%) it was 19 to 23 Gy, and for 216 tumors (7%) it was 15 to 18 Gy. In total, 87 patients (10%) had local progression of 104 tumors (3%), and 148 patients (17%) had at least radiographic evidence of radiation necrosis involving 199 tumors (7%; 4% were symptomatic). Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed for local progression and radiation necrosis. For local progression, tumors less than 1 cm (subhazard ratio [SHR] 2.32; p < 0.001), PD of 24 Gy (SHR 1.84; p = 0.01), and additional whole-brain radiation therapy (SHR 2.53; p = 0.001) were independently associated with better outcome. For the development of radiographic radiation necrosis, independent prognostic factors included size greater than 1 cm (SHR 2.13; p < 0.001), location in the corpus callosum (SHR 5.72; p < 0.001), and uncommon pathologies (SHR 1.65; p = 0.05). Size (SHR 4.78; p < 0.001) and location (SHR 7.62; p < 0.001)—but not uncommon pathologies—were independent prognostic factors for the subgroup with symptomatic radiation necrosis.
A PD of 24 Gy results in significantly better local control of metastases measuring < 2 cm than lower doses. In addition, tumor size is an independent prognostic factor for both local progression and radiation necrosis. Some tumor pathologies and locations may also contribute to an increased risk of radiation necrosis.