Purpose: To evaluate the efficacy and toxicity of gamma knife radiosurgery in the treatment of melanoma metastases to the brain.
Patients and methods: We retrospectively reviewed 55 patients with single or multiple intracranial melanoma metastases treated at the University of California, San Francisco, with gamma knife radiosurgery from 1991 through 1995. Sixteen patients were treated with gamma knife radiosurgery for recurrence following previous radiation therapy, 11 received radiosurgery as a boost to whole-brain radiation therapy, and 28 had radiosurgery alone for initial management of brain metastases. The median minimum radiosurgery tumor dose for 140 treated lesions was 19 Gy (range, 10-22 Gy) prescribed at the 35% to 90% isodose contour (median, 50%). The median total target volume per patient was 6.1 cc (range, 0.25-28.3 cc).
Results: With a median follow-up of 75 weeks in living patients, the median survival times were 35 weeks overall: 35 weeks for patients with solitary metastases versus 33 weeks for those with multiple metastases. A factor that was significant in univariate analysis of survival was total target volume treated. This parameter remained significant on multivariate analysis. The actuarial median freedom from progression analyzed by lesion for 113 lesions in 46 patients with imaging follow-up was 89 weeks with 6-month and 1-year actuarial freedom from progression rates of 89% (95% confidence interval, 80%-95%) and 77% (95% confidence interval, 62%-87%). In univariate analysis, improved freedom from progression was associated with smaller target volume treated, smaller maximum diameter, or higher prescribed dose. Four patients (7%) developed acute Radiation Therapy Oncology Group grade > or = 2 morbidity, and five patients (9%) developed late grade > or = 2 morbidity.
Discussion: Median survival and freedom from progression in patients treated with radiosurgery for melanoma metastatic to the brain are comparable to results in published radiosurgery series of grouped histologies. For melanoma patients, total intracranial tumor volume appears to be of greater prognostic significance than the absolute number of metastases treated. We conclude that gamma knife radiosurgery is effective and should be considered among various management strategies.