Background: With the advent of new therapies for metastatic carcinoma to the brain, patterns of intracranial disease and factors influencing survival become important considerations when examining potential treatment options.
Methods: The records of 729 patients with metastases to the brain treated during the period between 1973 to 1993 were reviewed.
Results: Primary tumor histologic type in order of descending frequency included nonsmall cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), breast carcinoma, small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC), malignant melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, gastrointestinal carcinoma, uterine/vulvar carcinoma, and unknown primary carcinoma. There were 384 patients (53%) with a single brain metastasis, which was encountered most commonly in patients with prostate carcinoma and least often in patients with SCLC. Multiple metastases were present in 345 patients (47%). The median duration from diagnosis to presentation with a brain metastasis was 12 months, ranging from 3 months for patients with NSCLC to 53 months for patients with breast carcinoma. The median duration from presentation with brain metastases to death was 4 months, ranging from 3 months for patients with SCLC to 13 months for patients with prostate carcinoma. Median survival from presentation with brain metastases to death was 5 months for patients with single lesions and 3 months for patients with multifocal disease (P = 0.0001). Median survival for patients with a single lesion was 11 months with surgery and 3 months without surgery (P = 0.0001). Surgery did not significantly influence survival in patients with multiple metastases.
Conclusions: Dissemination of systemic carcinoma to the brain continues to carry a poor prognosis. Knowledge of the metastatic patterns and limited survival associated with specific tumor types may be useful for guiding future therapeutic intervention.