Treatment of brain metastasis from lung cancer

Prog Neurol Surg. 2012;25:148-155. doi: 10.1159/000331188. Epub 2012 Jan 6.


Brain metastasis from lung cancer occupies a significant portion of all brain metastases. About 15-20% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) develop brain metastasis during the course of the disease. The prognosis of brain metastasis is poor with median survival of less than 1 year. Whole-brain radiation therapy (WBRT) is widely used for the treatment of brain metastasis. WBRT can also be used as adjuvant treatment along with surgery and stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS).Surgery provides a rapid relief of mass effects and may be the best choice for a large single metastasis. SRS confers local control rates comparable to those for surgery with minimal toxicities and versatility that makes it applicable to multiple lesions, deep-seated lesions, and to patients with poor medical conditions. Recursive partitioning analysis (RPA) classes are widely used for prognostic stratification. However, the validity of RPA classes, especially for NSCLC, has been questioned and other scoring systems are being developed. Synchronous presentation of primary NSCLC and brain metastases is a special situation in which surgery for the lung lesion and surgery or SRS for brain lesions are recommended if the thoracic disease is in early stages. Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) has a higher likelihood for brain metastasis than NSCLC and prophylactic cranial irradiation and subsequent WBRT are usually recommended. Recently, SRS for brain metastasis from SCLC has been tried, but requires further verification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Brain Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Cranial Irradiation / methods
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / classification
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / therapy*
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neurosurgery / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Radiosurgery / methods*