Purpose: To determine whether or not Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) recursive partitioning analysis (RPA) derived prognostic classes for patients with brain metastases are generally applicable and can be recommended as rational strategy for patient selection for future clinical trials. Inclusion of time to non-CNS death as additional endpoint besides death from any cause might result in further valuable information, as survival limitation due to uncontrolled extracranial disease can be explored.
Methods: We performed a retrospective analysis of prognostic factors for survival and time to non-CNS death in 528 patients treated at a single institution with radiotherapy or surgery plus radiotherapy for brain metastases. For this purpose, patients were divided into groups with Karnofsky performance status (KPS) <70% and KPS > or =70%, as proposed by the RTOG.
Results: Median overall survival was 2.9 months (2.0 months for patients with KPS <70% and 3.6 months for patients with KPS > or =70%, p < 0.001). We did not find other variables splitting patients with KPS <70% in different prognostic groups. However, advanced age, multiple brain metastases, presence of extracranial metastases, and uncontrolled primary tumor each predicted shorter survival in patients with KPS > or =70%. When grouped into the original RTOG RPA classes, our data set split into three subgroups with different prognosis and median survival times of 10.5, 3.5, and 2 months, respectively (p < 0.05). Only 3% of patients fell into the most favorable group. Median time to non-CNS death was 4.1 months (12.9 months in RPA class I, 4.9 months in RPA class II, and 3.8 months in RPA class III, respectively, p > 0.05 for RPA class II versus III). However, it was 8.5 months in RPA class II patients with controlled primary tumor, which was found to be the only prognostic factor for time to non-CNS death in patients with KPS > or =70%. In patients with KPS <70%, no statistically significant prognostic factors were identified for this endpoint.
Conclusions: Despite some differences, this analysis essentially confirmed the value of RPA-derived prognostic classes, as published by the RTOG, when survival was chosen as endpoint. RPA class I patients seem to be most likely to profit from aggressive treatment strategies and should be included in appropriate clinical trials. However, their number appears to be very limited. Considering time to non-CNS death, our results suggest that certain patients in RPA class II also might benefit from increased local control of brain metastases.