Background: Brain metastases account for 20-54% of reported deaths from melanoma. Duration and quality of survival depend on the extent of metastatic disease and response to treatment. Treatment goals are palliation of symptoms and prolongation of life. No studies have directly compared surgery alone and surgery with adjunctive cranial irradiation in patients with solitary brain metastases.
Methods: We evaluated postoperative adjunctive cranial irradiation in 34 patients with solitary brain metastases.
Results: Overall survival was significantly improved in the 22 patients who received adjunctive cranial irradiation versus that in the 12 patients who had surgery alone. Twenty-eight patients subsequently relapsed. Nine of 10 patients with surgery alone had brain recurrence as a component of failure. Six of 10 patients not receiving irradiation had brain recurrences as a component of relapse at multiple sites whereas only 1 of 18 patients receiving irradiation relapsed with the brain.
Conclusions: Adjunctive cranial irradiation is justified for melanoma patients who undergo surgical therapy for solitary brain metastases. Survival in patients presenting with solitary brain metastases was improved by a reduction of relapse in the brain as a component of failure by combined surgery and irradiation.