Background: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of proton radiation therapy (PRT) for intracranial low-grade astrocytomas, the authors analyzed the first 27 pediatric patients treated at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC).
Patients and method: Between September 1991 and August 1997, 27 patients (13 female, 14 male) underwent fractionated proton radiation therapy for progressive or recurrent low-grade astrocytoma. Age at time of treatment ranged from 2 to 18 years (mean: 8.7 years). Tumors were located centrally (diencephalic) in 15 patients, in the cerebral and cerebellar hemispheres in seven patients, and in the brainstem in five patients. 25/27 patients (92%) were treated for progressive, unresectable, or residual disease following subtotal resection. Tissue diagnosis was available in 23/27 patients (85%). Four patients with optic pathway tumors were treated without histologic confirmation. Target doses between 50.4 and 63.0 CGE (Cobalt Gray Equivalent, mean: 55.2 CGE) were prescribed at 1.8 CGE per fraction, five treatments per week.
Results: At a mean follow-up period of 3.3 years (0.6-6.8 years), 6/27 patients experienced local failure (all located within the irradiated field), and 4/27 patients had died. By anatomic site these data translated into rates of local control and survival of 87% (13/15 patients) and 93% (14/15 patients) for central tumors, 71% (5/7 patients) and 86% (6/7 patients) for hemispheric tumors, and 60% (3/5 patients) and 60% (3/5 patients) for tumors located in the brainstem. Proton radiation therapy was generally well tolerated. All children with local control maintained their performance status. One child with associated neurofibromatosis, Type 1, developed Moyamoya disease. All six patients with optic pathway tumors and useful vision maintained or improved their visual status.
Conclusions: This report on pediatric low-grade astrocytomas confirms proton radiation therapy as a safe and efficacious 3-D conformal treatment modality. Results are encouraging for central tumors as well as large optic pathway tumors, where dose conformity is of particular importance; yet it is difficult to achieve. Longer follow-up time is needed to fully evaluate the benefits of normal tissue sparing.