Object: The purpose of this study was to devise an improved method of treating high-grade gliomas of the spinal cord in children who have a dismal prognosis following conventional treatment.
Methods: Eighteen children with newly diagnosed high-grade astrocytomas arising in the spinal cord were enrolled in the Children's Cancer Group (CCG) protocol 945. Following surgery, they were all assigned to receive two cycles of "8-drugs-in-1-day" (8-in-1) chemotherapy prior to radiotherapy and eight additional cycles thereafter. A centralized neuropathology review was used to confirm the diagnosis of high-grade astrocytoma in 13 of the 18 children: anaplastic astrocytoma (eight patients), glioblastoma multiforme (four patients), and mixed malignant glioma (one patient). Diagnoses were discordant in five patients. There were eight boys and five girls in the group with confirmed diagnoses, with a median age of 7 years (range 1-15 years). The extent of resection was confirmed by computerized tomography or magnetic resonance (MR) evaluation in five of 13 patients. There were six gross-total or near-total resections (> 90%), four partial or subtotal resections (10-90%), and three biopsies. Six patients showed evidence of leptomeningeal metastases at diagnosis based on staging MR examinations. Eight of the 13 patients completed at least eight of the prescribed 10 cycles of chemotherapy; five received craniospinal radiotherapy and five spinal radiotherapy.
Conclusions: The 5-year progression-free and total survival rates for the 13 children were 46 +/- 14% and 54 +/- 14%, respectively. Seven patients suffered a relapse at the primary site, four of whom also had leptomeningeal metastases. Seven of the 13 patients (54%) remain alive at the time of this report at a median of 76 months (range 51-93 months) from study entry. Six patients died between 8 and 38 months after diagnosis, all with active disease. Intensification of therapy may further improve outcome in this high-risk population.