Management of patients with brain metastases from non-small cell lung cancer and adverse prognostic features: multi-national radiation treatment recommendations are heterogeneous
AuthorNieder, Carsten; Guckenberger, Matthias; Gaspar, Laurie E.; Rusthoven, Chad G.; De Ruysscher, Dirk; Sahgal, Arjun; Nguyen, Timothy; Grosu, Anca L.; Mehta, Minesh P.
Background - Different management options exist for patients with brain metastases from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), patients whose treatment with whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT) has become more controversial over the last decade. It is not trivial to find the optimal balance of over- versus undertreatment in these patients. Several recent trials, including the randomized QUARTZ trial now influence the decision to recommend or withhold WBRT for patients with unfavorable prognosis, and similarly, for favorable prognosis patients, the balance between radiosurgery alone or WBRT has become a nuanced decision. Additionally, the availability of intracranially active targeted agent for some subsets of these patients has added another layer of complexity to the decision-making.
Methods - A multinational consortium of expert radiation oncologists was established with the aim of compiling treatment recommendations for challenging scenarios, in this case the choice between optimal supportive care (SC), WBRT and other types of radiation therapy (RT). We distributed 17 cases to 7 radiation oncologists who were allowed to involve coworkers to provide their treatment recommendations. The cases differed in extra- and intracranial disease extent, histology, age and other prognostic factors. Expert recommendations were tabulated with the aim of providing guidance.
Results - Regarding willingness to include the 17 patients in the QUARTZ trial, the rates of trial inclusion were low (range 0/7 to 3/7). Experts not recommending trial inclusion provided their treatment recommendations. These suggestions differed widely for most of the patients. It was not uncommon to see 3 or 4 different recommendations. In general, few (0–2) recommended SC. Some kind of local treatment was suggested by the majority of experts for all 17 patients. Commonly, stereotactic single-fraction radiosurgery (SRS) or stereotactic fractionated radiotherapy (SFRT) were recommended by many experts, also for patients with 5–7 lesions. The highest proportion of recommendations towards WBRT in any patient was 3/7. It was also quite common for patients with multiple metastases of varying size that experts suggested combinations of resection, post-operative SRS/SFRT and SRS/SFRT to intact lesions. Despite recommending active treatment, experts were often willing to include the patients in a hypothetical protocol investigating radiotherapy utilization in the last 30 days of life (assessment of factors predicting early death).
Conclusions - WBRT was infrequently recommended. Even in patients with adverse prognostic features that raised the experts’ awareness of an increased risk for futile treatment near the end of life, SRS/SFRT were more often recommended than optimal supportive care, unless a patient decided to forego active treatment.