Purpose: To analyze the factors that affect survival in patients with brain metastases (BM) from breast cancer who were treated with whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT).
Methods and materials: We identified 116 women with breast cancer who were treated with WBRT alone between February 1984 and September 2000. All patients had treatment and follow-up data available in their medical charts, which we extracted for this retrospective study. We evaluated a number of potential predictors of survival after WBRT: age, primary tumor stage, control of primary tumor, presence of other systemic metastases, site of systemic metastases, Karnofsky performance status, Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) recursive partitioning analysis class, total dose of WBRT, and number of BM. Eighteen patients received a total dose >3000 cGy and 7 received a partial brain boost.
Results: For the entire cohort, the median survival from the start of WBRT was 4.2 months. The 1-year survival rate was 17%, and the 2-year survival rate was 2%. Using univariate analysis, only Karnofsky performance status (p = 0. 0084), recursive partitioning analysis class (p = 0. 0147), and total WBRT dose (p = 0.0001) were predictive of longer survival. In multivariate analysis, Karnofsky performance status was the only significant predictor.
Conclusion: Overall survival in breast cancer patients with BM treated with WBRT is poor. We recommend breast cancer patients with BM be enrolled in prospective trials to improve results.