Purpose: Proton radiation therapy is commonly used in young children with brain tumors for its potential to reduce late effects. However, some proton series report higher rates of brainstem injury (0%-16%) than most photon series (2.2%-8.6%). We report the incidence of brainstem injury and a risk factor analysis in pediatric patients with posterior fossa primary tumors treated with proton radiation therapy at our institution.
Methods and materials: The study included 216 consecutive patients treated between 2000 and 2015. Dosimetry was available for all but 4 patients. Grade 2 to 5 late brainstem toxicity was assessed by the National Cancer Institute Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events version 4.0.
Results: The histologies include medulloblastoma (n=154, 71.3%), ependymoma (n=56, 25.9%), and atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (n=6, 2.8%). The median age at irradiation was 6.6 years (range, 0.5-23.1 years); median dose, 54 gray relative biological effectiveness (Gy RBE) (range, 46.8-59.4 Gy RBE); and median follow-up period, 4.2 years (range, 0.1-15.3 years) among 198 survivors. Of the patients, 83.3% received chemotherapy; 70.4% achieved gross total resection. The crude rate of injury was 2.3% in all patients, 1.9% in those with medulloblastoma, 3.6% in those with ependymoma, and 0% in those with atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor. The 5-year cumulative incidence of injury was 2.0% (95% confidence interval, 0.7%-4.8%). The median brainstem dose (minimum dose received by 50% of brainstem) in the whole cohort was 53.6 Gy RBE (range, 16.5-56.8 Gy RBE); maximum point dose within the brainstem (Dmax), 55.2 Gy RBE (range, 48.4-60.5 Gy RBE); and mean dose, 50.4 Gy RBE (range, 21.1-56.7 Gy RBE). In the 5 patients with injury, the median minimum dose received by 50% of the brainstem was 54.6 Gy RBE (range, 50.2-55.1 Gy RBE); Dmax, 56.2 Gy RBE (range, 55.0-57.1 Gy RBE); mean dose, 51.3 Gy RBE (range, 45.4-54.4 Gy RBE); and median volume of the brainstem receiving ≥55 Gy RBE (V55), 27.4% (range, 0%-59.4%). Of the 5 patients with injury, 4 had a brainstem Dmax in the highest quartile (≥55.8 Gy RBE, P = .016) and a V55 in the highest tertile (>6.0%) of the cohort distribution (P = .047). Of the 5 patients with injury, 3 were aged >6 years (age range, 4.1-22.8 years), and 4 of 5 patients received chemotherapy and achieved gross total resection.
Conclusions: The incidence of injury in pediatric patients with posterior fossa tumors is consistent with previous reports in the photon setting. Our data suggest that when Dmax and V55 are kept <55.8 Gy RBE and ≤6.0%, respectively, the 5-year rate of radiation brainstem injury would be <2%.
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