Objective: Long-term local control in patients with primary chordoma and sarcoma of the spine and sacrum is increasingly reliant upon en bloc resection with negative margins. At many institutions, adjuvant radiation is recommended; definitive radiation is also recommended for the treatment of unresectable tumors. Because of the high off-target radiation toxicities associated with conventional radiotherapy, there has been growing interest in the use of proton and heavy-ion therapies. The aim of this study was to systematically review the literature regarding these therapies.
Methods: The PubMed, OVID, Embase, and Web of Science databases were queried for articles describing the use of proton, combined proton/photon, or heavy-ion therapies for adjuvant or definitive radiotherapy in patients with primary sarcoma or chordoma of the mobile spine and sacrum. A qualitative synthesis of the results was performed, focusing on overall survival (OS), progression-free survival (PFS), disease-free survival (DFS), and disease-specific survival (DSS); local control; and postradiation toxicities.
Results: Of 595 unique articles, 64 underwent full-text screening and 38 were included in the final synthesis. All studies were level III or IV evidence with a high risk of bias; there was also significant overlap in the reported populations, with six centers accounting for roughly three-fourths of all reports. Five-year therapy outcomes were as follows: proton-only therapies, OS 67%-82%, PFS 31%-57%, and DFS 52%-62%; metastases occurred in 17%-18% and acute toxicities in 3%-100% of cases; combined proton/photon therapy, local control 62%-85%, OS 78%-87%, PFS 90%, and DFS 61%-72%; metastases occurred in 12%-14% and acute toxicities in 84%-100% of cases; and carbon ion therapy, local control 53%-100%, OS 52%-86%, PFS (only reported for 3 years) 48%-76%, and DFS 50%-53%; metastases occurred in 2%-39% and acute toxicities in 26%-48%. There were no studies directly comparing outcomes between photon and charged-particle therapies or comparing outcomes between radiation and surgical groups.
Conclusions: The current evidence for charged-particle therapies in the management of sarcomas of the spine and sacrum is limited. Preliminary evidence suggests that with these therapies local control and OS at 5 years are comparable among various charged-particle options and may be similar between those treated with definitive charged-particle therapy and historical surgical cohorts. Further research directly comparing charged-particle and photon-based therapies is necessary.
Keywords: adjuvant; carbon ion therapy; chordoma; local control; proton therapy; radiotherapy.