Purpose: Although brain metastases rarely occur in children with solid tumors, pediatric Ewing sarcoma (ES) and rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) are among those most likely to metastasize to the brain. The authors review their institution's experience of brain metastases of ES and RMS.
Patients and methods: The clinical characteristics, therapy, and outcome of all patients treated at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital over a 36-year period who had ES or RMS with brain metastases were reviewed.
Results: Of 419 patients with RMS, 10 (2.4%) had brain metastases. Of 335 patients with ES, 11 (3.3%) had brain metastases. The median age of the 21 patients was 10.4 years (range, 0.4-18.0 years) at the time of primary diagnosis. All had clinical signs of central nervous system (CNS) involvement. Outcome was dismal: The median duration of survival after diagnosis of brain metastasis was 2.7 months. The estimated survival 1 year after detection of brain involvement was 23.8%+/-8.5% (mean +/- standard error). One patient, who underwent chemotherapy, surgical resection, and radiotherapy, at the time of this writing is a long-term survivor.
Conclusions: Brain metastases are rare in children with ES and RMS, but carry a grave prognosis. Because most brain metastases are accompanied by signs of neurologic involvement, routine imaging studies of asymptomatic children are not necessary. Combined-modality treatment offers the best chance of long-term survival.