High-grade pediatric spinal cord tumors.


Our institutional experience with high-grade pediatric spinal cord tumors includes 11 children treated during the period of 1981-1997. All patients underwent a biopsy or an attempt at resection and received postoperative radiation therapy. Three patients had a gross-total resection of their primary tumor, 6 patients had a subtotal resection and the remaining 2 were biopsied. Histologically, these tumors were characterized as anaplastic astrocytoma (n = 6), glioblastoma multiforme (n = 3) or anaplastic oligodendroglioma (n = 2). Three patients were treated with craniospinal irradiation (38-48 Gy) in addition to a boost to the residual tumor. The median dose to the primary site for all patients was 48.6 Gy (range 38-55 Gy). The median overall survival was 13 months (range 8-149 months). Only 2 patients were alive at 138 and 149 months following radiation therapy. The median progression-free survival following radiation therapy was 10 months (range 2-80 months). There was no difference in progression-free or overall survival for those diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme when compared to patients diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma or anaplastic oligodendroglioma. The pattern of failure was either diffuse or local. For the patients who failed diffusely (n = 6), the median progression-free survival was 2 months compared to 23 months for those whose failure was entirely local (p < 0.01). The median overall survival was significantly shorter for those who failed diffusely compared to those who failed locally (10 vs. 37 months, p < 0.01). High-grade spinal cord tumors in children have a poor prognosis based on this report. It is important to document the extent of disease accurately prior to the initiation of radiation therapy, since a subset of these patients progress rapidly outside of the field of irradiation.


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