Radiotherapy versus best supportive care in patients with brain metastases and adverse prognostic factors

Clin Exp Metastasis. 2013 Aug;30(6):723-9. doi: 10.1007/s10585-013-9573-x. Epub 2013 Feb 8.


Several previous studies have suggested that patients with brain metastases should be treated with individualized approaches taking into account prognostic factors that influence survival. Whether or not radiotherapy represents overtreatment in patients with adverse prognostic features is currently being addressed in the randomized QUARTZ trial (best supportive care (BSC) vs. whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT)). However, inclusion is limited to patients with primary non-small cell lung cancer. Therefore, we analyzed a broader patient population with different primary tumors managed with BSC or WBRT (intended total dose 20 or 30 Gy). Survival was examined by uni- and multivariate analyses including matched pairs. Median overall survival of all 113 patients was 2 months. No significant difference between BSC and 20 Gy WBRT was observed. A slight but significant improvement was observed in the 30 Gy WBRT group (median 2.2 vs. 1.7 months). The magnitude of difference is not clinically meaningful. Subgroup analyses revealed that improved survival after 30 Gy WBRT was limited to patients with primary small cell lung cancer. In conclusion, these results confirm and extent interim results from the QUARTZ trial, suggesting that BSC is a reasonable choice in patients with limited survival expectation. Further efforts are necessary to improve identification of patients who are likely to benefit from WBRT, e.g. by refining available survival prediction tools, and to confirm that management of those with small cell lung cancer should include a less restricted use of WBRT.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain Neoplasms / mortality
  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Cranial Irradiation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies