The challenge of durable brain control in patients with brain-only metastases from breast cancer
The vast majority of patients with brain metastases from breast cancer have extracranial metastases, e.g., in the liver, lungs or bones, with serious impact on prognosis. Limited research has been performed on patients with brain-only disease. We analyzed patterns of treatment, brain control and survival in uni- and multivariate analyses. All 25 patients with brain-only disease were treated with radiotherapy (whole-brain radiotherapy (WBRT) with or without stereotactic radiotherapy/radiosurgery (SRS) or surgical resection) and most patients with systemic treatment later during the disease trajectory. Only a minority of patients remained free from brain progression at 1 year after their initial therapy, regardless of initial treatment approach (median brain progression-free survival 6.2 months). However, overall survival was significantly better after initial surgical resection/SRS as compared to upfront WBRT (median 24.1 and 5.2 months, respectively). For all patients combined, median survival was 11.7 months (2-year survival rate 28 %). Several prognostic factors for shorter survival were identified in multivariate regression analysis: lower KPS, triple-negative tumor, coordination deficit, older age, lack of upfront surgical resection or SRS, and lack of endocrine or HER2-directed therapy after brain metastases treatment. Although durable brain control and long-term survival beyond 5 years could be achieved in a subset of patients (largely after successful salvage), progression of brain metastases during the first year after diagnosis was common. Prognosis was influenced by patient-, disease- and treatment-related factors.
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