Purpose: In June 1992, POG began accrual to a phase III study, POG-9239, designed to compare the time to disease progression, overall survival, and toxicities observed in children with newly diagnosed brainstem tumor treated with 100 mg/m2 of infusional cisplatin and randomized to either conventional vs. hyperfractionated radiotherapy.
Methods and materials: Patients eligible for study were those between 3 and 21 years of age with previously untreated tumors arising in the pons. Histologic confirmation of diagnosis was not mandatory, provided that the clinical and MRI scan findings were typical for a diffusely infiltrating pontine lesion. Treatment consisted of a six-week course of local field radiotherapy with either once a day treatment of 180 cGy per fraction to a total dose of 5400 cGy (arm 1) or a twice a day regimen of 117 cGy per fraction to a total dose of 7020 cGy (the second of the three hyperfractionated dose escalation levels of POG-8495) (arm 2). Because of previously reported poor results with conventional radiotherapy alone, cisplatin was included as a potential radiosensitizer in an attempt to improve progression-free and ultimate survival rates. Based on results of the phase I cisplatin dose escalation trial, POG-9139, 100 mg/m2 was chosen for this trial and was delivered by continuous infusion over a 120-hour period, beginning on the first day of radiotherapy and repeated during weeks 3 and 5. One hundred thirty eligible patients were treated on protocol, 66 on arm 1 and 64 on arm 2.
Results: The results we report are from time of diagnosis through October 1997. For patients treated on arm 1, the median time to disease progression (defined as time to off study) was 6 months (range 2-15 months) and the median time to death 8.5 months (range 3-24 months); survival at 1 year was 30.9% and at 2 years, 7.1%. For patients treated on arm 2, the corresponding values were 5 months (range 1-12 months) and 8 months (range 1-23 months), with 1- and 2-year survival rates at 27.0% and 6.7%, respectively. Evaluation of response by MRI at 4 or 8 wks post treatment was available in 108 patients and revealed a complete response in 1 patient of each Rx arm, a partial response (> 50% decrease in size) in 18 patients of arm 1 and 15 patients of arm 2, minimal to no response (stable) in 25 patients of arm 1 and 23 patients of arm 2, and progressive disease in 13 patients of arm 1 and 12 patients of arm 2. The pattern of failure was local in all patients. Morbidity of treatment was similar in both Rx arms, with no significant toxicity (including hearing loss) reported. Autopsy was performed in 6 patients, and confirmed the presence of extensive residual tumor in these cases.
Conclusion: The major conclusion from this trial is that the hyperfractionated method of Rx 2 did not improve event-free survival (p = 0.96) nor did it improve survival (p = 0.65) over that of the conventional fractionation regimen of Rx 1, and that both treatments are associated with a poor disease-free and survival outcome.