Background: Cerebral metastasis is a common oncologic problem that occurs in 15-30% of cancer patients; approximately half such metastases are single. Previous retrospective studies and two randomized trials reported that the addition of surgical extirpation prior to radiation therapy increased survival, neurologic function, and quality of life compared with radiation alone in patients with a single brain metastasis.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted in which patients with a single brain metastasis were allocated to undergo radiation alone or surgery plus radiation. Radiation consisted of 3000 centigray to the whole brain in 10 fractions.
Results: Forty-three patients received radiation alone and 41 patients surgery plus radiation. All but two of the study patients died. No difference in survival was detected between the groups; the median survival for the radiation group was 6.3 months (95% confidence interval, 3-11.4) compared with 5.6 months for the surgery plus radiation group (95% confidence interval, 3.9-7.2) (P = 0.24). Most patients died within the first year (69.8% in the radiation arm vs. 87.8% in the surgery plus radiation arm). There were no significant differences in the 30-day mortality, morbidity, or causes of death. Extracranial metastases was an important predictor of mortality (relative risk, 2.3). The mean proportion of days that the Karnofsky performance status was > or = 70% did not differ between the 2 groups.
Conclusions: This trial failed to demonstrate that the addition of surgery to radiation therapy improved outcome of patients with a single brain metastasis. Thus, the efficacy of surgery plus radiation compared with radiation alone needs to be addressed by further clinical trials and/or a meta-analysis.