Whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT) is a mainstay of treatment in patients with both identifiable brain metastases and prophylaxis for microscopic disease. The use of WBRT has decreased somewhat in recent years due to both advances in radiation technology, allowing for a more localized delivery of radiation, and growing concerns regarding the late toxicity profile associated with WBRT. This has prompted the development of several recent and ongoing prospective studies designed to provide Level I evidence to guide optimal treatment approaches for patients with intracranial metastases. In addition to defining the role of WBRT in patients with brain metastases, identifying methods to improve WBRT is an active area of investigation, and can be classified into two general categories: Those designed to decrease the morbidity of WBRT, primarily by reducing late toxicity, and those designed to improve the efficacy of WBRT. Both of these areas of research show diversity and promise, and it seems feasible that in the near future, the efficacy/toxicity ratio may be improved, allowing for a more diverse clinical application of WBRT.
Keywords: Brain metastasis; oncology; prophylactic cranial irradiation; radiation; stereotactic radiosurgery; whole brain radiotherapy.