Safety and Local Control of Radiation Therapy for Chordoma of the Spine and Sacrum: A Systematic Review

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2016 Oct 15;41 Suppl 20(Suppl 20):S186-S192. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000001831.


Study design: Systematic literature review.

Objective: To assess the toxicity, common radiation doses, and local control (LC) rates of radiation therapy for chordoma of the spine and sacrum and identify the difference in LC and toxicity between adjuvant, salvage, and primary therapy using radiation.

Summary of background data: Chordoma of the spine is typically a low-grade malignant tumor thought to be relatively radioresistant with a high rate of local recurrence and the potential for metastases. Improved results of modern radiation therapy in the treatment of chordoma support exploration of its role in the management of primary/de novo chordoma or recurrent chordoma.

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature review using PubMed and Embase databases to assess information available regarding the toxicity, LC rates, and overall survival (OS) rates for adjuvant, salvage, and primary radiation therapy for spinal and sacral chordoma.

Results: A total of 40 articles were reviewed. Evidence quality was low or very low. The highest rates of LC and OS were with early adjuvant RT for primary/de novo disease. Salvage RT for recurrent disease has very small cohorts and thus strong conclusions were not able be made.

Conclusion: The use of pre- and/or post-operative photon image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), proton or carbon ion therapy should be considered for patients undergoing surgery for the treatment of primary and recurrent chordomas in the mobile spine and sacrum, since these RT modalities may improve local control. Preoperative evaluation by the surgeon and radiation oncologist should be used to formulate a cohesive treatment plan.The use of photon IGRT or carbon ion therapy as the primary treatment of chordoma, when currently in its developmental stage, shows promise and requires clear delineation of toxicity profile and long-term local control.

Level of evidence: 2.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chordoma / pathology
  • Chordoma / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Proton Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated / adverse effects*
  • Sacrum / pathology*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Spinal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Treatment Outcome