Local Control After Proton Therapy for Pediatric Chordoma

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2021 Apr 1;109(5):1406-1413. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2020.11.051. Epub 2020 Nov 27.


Purpose: Due to the location and high dose required for disease control, pediatric chordomas are theoretically well-suited for treatment with proton therapy, but their low incidence limits the clinical outcome data available in the literature. We sought to report the efficacy and toxicity of proton therapy among a single-institution cohort.

Methods and materials: Between 2008 and 2019, 29 patients with a median age of 14.8 years (range, 3.8-21.8) received passive-scattered proton therapy for nonmetastatic chordoma. No patient received prior irradiation. Twenty-four tumors arose in the clivus/cervical spine region and 5 in the lumbosacral spine. Twenty-six tumors demonstrated classic well-differentiated histology and 3 were dedifferentiated or not otherwise specified. Approximately half of the tumors underwent specialized testing: 14 were brachyury-positive and 10 retained INI-1. Three patients had locally recurrent tumors after surgery alone (n = 2) or surgery + chemotherapy (n = 1), and 17 patients had gross disease at the time of radiation. The median radiation dose was 73.8 Gy relative biological effectivness (range, 69-75.6).

Results: With a median follow-up of 4.3 years (range, 1.0-10.7), the 5-year estimates of local control, progression-free survival, and overall survival rates were 85%, 82%, and 86%, respectively. No disease progression was observed beyond 3 years. Excluding 3 patients with dedifferentiated/not-otherwise-specified chordoma, the 5-year local control, progression-free survival, and overall survival rates were 92%, 92%, and 91%, respectively. Serious toxicities included 3 patients with hardware failure or related infection requiring revision surgery, 2 patients with hormone deficiency, and 2 patients with Eustachian tube dysfunction causing chronic otitis media. No patient experienced brain stem injury, myelopathy, vision loss, or hearing loss after radiation.

Conclusions: In pediatric patients with chordoma, proton therapy is associated with a low risk of serious toxicity and high efficacy, particularly in well-differentiated tumors. Complete resection may be unnecessary for local control, and destabilizing operations requiring instrumentation may result in additional complications after therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chordoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Chordoma / mortality
  • Chordoma / radiotherapy*
  • Cranial Fossa, Posterior / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / radiotherapy
  • Organs at Risk
  • Progression-Free Survival
  • Proton Therapy / adverse effects
  • Proton Therapy / methods*
  • Proton Therapy / mortality
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Skull Base Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Skull Base Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skull Base Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Spinal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Survival Rate
  • Young Adult