Current treatment strategies for brain metastasis and complications from therapeutic techniques: a review of current literature

Am J Clin Oncol. 2010 Aug;33(4):398-407. doi: 10.1097/COC.0b013e318194f744.


Each year approximately 170,000 patients are diagnosed with brain metastasis in the United States, making this the most common intracranial tumor in adults. Historically, treatment strategies focused on the use of whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT) for palliation, yielding a median survival time of only 3 to 6 months. The possible effect of WBRT on cognitive function has generated much concern and debate regarding the use of this modality. Thus, the use of WBRT alone, or in conjunction with other treatment modalities should take into account both risks and benefits, to ensure the best patient outcome with regard to disease state and functional status. The advent of technologies permitting local dose-escalation have clearly increased local control rates, and in select patients, even survival, thereby, further intensifying the debate regarding the use of WBRT. Here, we review the use of WBRT, radiosurgery, and resection for the treatment of brain metastases. Further, we will review the use of radiation sensitizers and blood-brain barrier penetrating cytotoxics such as temozolomide. Finally, we will discuss current treatment strategies for possibly maintaining and improving cognitive function for these patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Brain / radiation effects
  • Brain Neoplasms / mortality
  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / radiation effects
  • Dacarbazine / analogs & derivatives
  • Dacarbazine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / radiotherapy
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / therapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents / therapeutic use
  • Radiosurgery / methods
  • Survival Rate
  • Temozolomide
  • Time Factors


  • Radiation-Sensitizing Agents
  • Dacarbazine
  • Temozolomide