Study design: A consecutive series of 52 chordomas of the mobile spine observed over a 50-year period includes a retrospective review of 15 cases treated prior to 1991 and a prospective group of 37 cases treated from 1991 to 2002.
Objectives: This series reviews epidemiologic issues as well as clinical patterns of spinal chordomas. We attempt to correlate tumor extent, treatment, and outcomes over time.
Summary of background data: Chordoma is the most frequent primary tumor of the mobile spine. Due to slow growth, both initial symptoms and recurrences after treatment arise later, making it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment protocols.
Methods: A prospective series of 37 cases is compared with a retrospective group of 15 patients observed between 1954 and 1991. In the prospective study, all patients had imaging studies, and oncologic and surgical staging. When en bloc resection was not feasible, intralesional extracapsular excision was combined with radiation therapy. The prospective patients were clinically evaluated and imaged. Patients in the retrospective group were evaluated by chart and available images; of these, only one en bloc resection (intralesional margin) was performed. Survivors were all evaluated clinically and had radiographic studies.
Results: Forty-eight patients were available for long-term follow-up. Four died due to post-operative complications, and six due to disease less than 2 years after treatment. Forty-two patients were followed over 2 years; 26 patients had over 5 years follow-up. All patients having radiation alone, intralesional excision, or a combination had recurrences in less than 2 years, and died in some cases after a long survival with symptomatic disease. Intralesional extracapsular excision with radiation had a high rate of recurrence (12 of 16 at average 30 months), but 3 patients are continuously disease-free (CDF) at mean 52 months and 5 are alive with disease at average 69 months (ranging 24 to 146). Twelve of 18 patients having en bloc resection are CDF at average 8 years (48 to 155 months). The remaining 6 recurred and of these 1 died. All of these (6) had been previously treated and/or had en bloc resections with contaminated margins.
Conclusions: The only treatment protocol associated with CDF at follow-up longer than 5 years is margin-free en bloc resection.