High-resolution MRI demonstrates that more than 90% of small intracranial melanoma metastases develop in close relationship to the leptomeninges

Neuro Oncol. 2020 Mar 5;22(3):423-432. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/noz171.


Background: Despite classic teaching that intracranial metastases typically arise at the gray-white matter junction, small intracranial melanoma metastases (IMM) are frequently observed at the interface between the cortex and leptomeninges (ie, "corticomeningeal interface"), suggesting possible leptomeningeal origin.

Methods: MRI brain examinations of melanoma patients treated at a specialist oncology center from July 2015 to June 2017 were retrospectively reviewed. The MRI examination on which IMM were first visible was identified, utilizing 1 mm volumetric postcontrast imaging prior to local therapy. Individual metastases (up to 10 per patient) were assessed for the presence of leptomeningeal contact, as well as their number, size, and morphology. Lesions ≥10 mm in long axis were excluded, in order to examine early metastatic disease.

Results: Seventy-five patients had evidence of IMM. Fifteen patients had only lesion(s) measuring ≥10 mm at diagnosis, leaving 60 patients. One hundred ninety-two individual metastases were examined (median 2 per patient; interquartile range, 1-4), 174 (91%) demonstrating leptomeningeal contact. A nodular morphology was observed in 154 of 192 (82%), 32 (17%) were ovoid but elongated along the cortex, and 6 (3%) were linear. Only 3 patients (5%) also exhibited a "classic" linear leptomeningeal disease appearance.

Conclusions: Most IMM measuring between 2 and 9 mm in diameter are corticomeningeal nodules. These data raise the hypothesis that deeper parenchymal extension of IMM occurs secondarily. If the leptomeninges provide a preferential site for establishment of IMM, further investigation of the underlying biology of this phenomenon may provide opportunities for novel therapeutic strategies for patients with IMM.

Keywords: intracranial metastases; leptomeninges; magnetic resonance imaging; melanoma; pia mater.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Meningeal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Meningeal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Meningeal Neoplasms / secondary
  • Meningioma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Meningioma / pathology*
  • Meningioma / secondary
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult