Background: Proton therapy can reduce the low and intermediate radiation dose to uninvolved brain tissue in children with intracranial ependymomas, which may improve functional outcomes and reduce second malignancies in survivors. Accordingly, ependymoma has become the most common pediatric tumor treated with proton therapy, yet data on efficacy and toxicity are limited.
Material and methods: Between June 2007 and February 2017, 179 children (≤21 years old) with nonmetastatic grade II/III intracranial ependymoma received proton therapy at our institution. Median age, 3.5 years (range, 0.7-21); 58% were male. Most (66%) tumors were in the posterior fossa and classified as WHO grade III (67%). 27% underwent multiple operations to maximize the extent of resection; ultimately 85% had a gross total or near total tumor resection before radiotherapy. 33% received preradiation chemotherapy. Median radiation dose in children ≤3 years old, 54 Gy(RBE). Most (>90%) children over 3 years old received 59.4 Gy(RBE). Patient and treatment variables were assessed for correlation with disease control.
Results: Median follow-up, 3.2 years. 3-year local control, progression-free survival, and overall survival rates were 85%, 76%, and 90%, respectively. First site of progression was local, metastatic, or simultaneous in 14, 17 and 6 patients, respectively. On multivariate analysis, subtotal resection was associated with inferior local control (67% vs. 88%; p ≤ .01) and progression-free survival (59% vs. 79%; p < .05). Male sex was associated with inferior progression-free (67% vs. 87%; p< .05) and overall survival (84% vs. 99%; p < .01). The 3-year CTCAE grade 2 + brainstem toxicity rate was 5.5% (95% CI: 2.9-10.2), including 1 grade 5 toxicity.
Conclusions: This series of proton therapy for pediatric intracranial ependymoma demonstrates disease control comparable to photon series without unexpected toxicity. Subtotal resection and male sex were associated with inferior disease control. Additional follow-up to quantify the expected reductions in late toxicity with proton therapy is ongoing.