Adjuvant stereotactic radiosurgery with or without postoperative fractionated radiation therapy in adults with skull base chordomas: a systematic review

Neurosurg Focus. 2022 Nov;53(5):E5. doi: 10.3171/2022.8.FOCUS22239.


Objective: The objective of this retrospective study was to compare the survival of patients with biopsy-proven skull base chordoma who had undergone stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) with versus without prior fractionated radiation therapy (RT).

Methods: Relevant articles from database inception to September 2021 were retrieved from the PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Cochrane databases for a systematic review of treatment protocols. Studies were included if they 1) involved adult patients (age ≥ 18 years) with histologically and radiologically confirmed chordomas located within the clival skull base region and treated with SRS; 2) reported data on clinical features, SRS protocols, and outcomes; and 3) were written in the English language. Studies were excluded if they 1) were literature reviews, case reports, technical notes, abstracts, or autopsy reports; 2) did not clearly differentiate the data of patients with chordomas from the data of patients with different tumors or the data of patients with chordomas in locations other than the skull base; or 3) lacked histological confirmation or treatment and outcome data. Extracted data included the following: study author and publication year, patient age and sex, symptoms, cranial nerve involvement, invaded structures, lesion size, treatment modality, surgical details, histopathological type, RT modality, SRS parameters, complications, postradiosurgery outcomes, complications, and survival outcomes.

Results: After the selection process, 15 articles describing 130 patients met the study eligibility criteria, including 94 patients who had undergone postresection SRS (NoRT group) and 36 who had undergone postresection fractionated RT and subsequent SRS (RT group). The NoRT and RT groups were comparable in age (51.3 vs 47.4 years, respectively), sex (57.1% vs 58.3% male), tumor volume (9.5 vs 11.2 cm3), SRS treatment parameters (maximum dose: 35.4 vs 42.2 Gy, marginal dose: 19.6 vs 20.6 Gy, treatment isodose line: 60.2% vs 65.2%), and SRS adverse effects (10.9% vs 17.6%). For the entire cohort, the 3-, 5-, and 10-year progression-free survival (PFS) rates were 23%, 9%, and 3%, respectively, and the overall survival (OS) rates were 94%, 82%, and 76%, respectively. In the NoRT group, SRS was adjuvant treatment after resection in 38 patients (40.4%), salvage treatment for recurrent tumor treated with resection alone in 10 (10.6%), and not specified in 46 (48.9%). In the RT group, SRS was boost treatment in 9 patients (25.0%), salvage treatment after recurrence in 22 (61.1%), and not specified in 5 (13.9%). There was no difference between the two groups in terms of median PFS (24.0 months [Q1 34.0, Q3 15.0] vs 23.8 months [34.0, 18.0], respectively; p = 0.8) or median OS (293.0 months [not reached, 137.4] vs not reached [not reached, 48.0], respectively; p = 0.36). The adverse radiation effect rates were comparable between the groups (10.9% vs 17.6%, respectively; p = 0.4).

Conclusions: The role of SRS in the management of skull base chordomas is still evolving. This systematic literature review of biopsy-proven chordoma revealed that tumor control and survival rates for SRS alone after chordoma surgery were not inferior to those encountered after SRS plus fractionated RT.

Keywords: CyberKnife; Gamma Knife; chordoma; endoscopic endonasal approach; linear accelerator; microsurgery; radiosurgery; skull base.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chordoma* / surgery
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiosurgery* / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull Base Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome