The efficacy of high-dose chemotherapy (HDC) or standard salvage therapy was evaluated in patients with recurrent medulloblastoma (MBL) using retrospective chart review of all patients with recurrent MBL treated at Duke University Medical Center between 1995 and 2005 and who had undergone HDC with or without radiotherapy (RT) or standard salvage therapy after relapse. A total of 30 patients were diagnosed with recurrent MBL after standard RT alone or chemotherapy with RT. Nineteen patients (7 who received no RT before recurrence [group A] and 12 who received definitive RT before recurrence [group B]) underwent surgery and/or induction chemotherapy followed by HDC plus autologous stem-cell rescue. Eleven patients (group C) underwent standard salvage therapy. Six of seven group A patients also received standard RT just before or after recovery from HDC, and 5 of 12 group B patients received adjuvant palliative focal RT post-HDC. At a median follow-up of 28 months, three of seven patients in group A are alive and disease-free at >or=34, >or=110, and >or=116 months, respectively, post-HDC. All patients in groups B and C have died of tumor, at a median of 35 months and 26 months from HDC and standard salvage therapy, respectively. HDC or standard salvage therapy was ineffective in our patients with recurrent MBL who had received standard RT before recurrence. The favorable impact of HDC on disease control in the two long-term survivors cannot be clearly established due to the cofounding effect of definitive RT postrecurrence.