Background: In supratentorial low-grade astrocytoma, radiation therapy effects and prognostic factors, especially with respect to computed tomography (CT) findings, are not yet well established. A retrospective analysis of 119 patients with this disease (histologically confirmed ordinary astrocytoma) therefore was conducted.
Methods: Between 1965 and 1989, 101 patients received postoperative radiation therapy, whereas 18 patients received surgery alone. Radiation was directed to the tumor plus a 1- to 3-cm margin in almost all cases; the dose range was 41 to 66 Gy (mean, 57 Gy). CT scan was performed before treatment on 74 patients. Postoperative survival rates were compared by both univariate and multivariate analyses.
Results: The 5- and 10-year survival rates for the irradiated group were 60% and 41%, respectively, which were significantly better than those for the surgery-alone group (37% and 11%, P = 0.048). Among various potential prognostic factors for the irradiated patients, only a lower age was associated with a better prognosis. Sex, tumor site (deep-seated or not), extent of surgery, radiation dose and field, and adjuvant chemotherapy did not influence the prognosis significantly. Among various CT findings, a clear tumor margin, a maximum tumor area less than 25 cm2, presence of a cyst, and lack of mass effect were associated with a better prognosis on univariate analysis (P = 0.02-0.12), but contrast enhancement was not related to prognosis. On multivariate analysis, however, mass effect was the only significant factor.
Conclusions: Radiation therapy appears definitely to be effective in improving the prognosis for low-grade astrocytoma. Younger age, and the absence of mass effect determined by CT, were associated significantly with a better prognosis.