Brain metastases refers to cancer cells that have spread to the brain from primary tumors in other organs in the body. Lung cancer is the most common cancer to spread to the brain, followed by breast cancer and melanoma. First used in 1954, whole-brain radiation has long been a standard strategy for brain metastases. However, a new study has demonstrated that this widely used whole-brain radiation technique to treat brain cancer is not an effective strategy and results in more memory loss than treating patients with radiotherapy alone.
Paul Brown, professor of radiation oncology at the University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center said, "The potential benefits of whole brain radiation therapy are far outweighed by the detriments of the therapy itself."
During the study, patients were assigned to either radiosurgery followed by whole-brain radiation or radiosurgery alone. The research comprised of 213 patients, who had one to three small tumors or metastases in the brain. Patients who were treated with both approaches performed significantly worse three months later on tests involving cognitive abilities. The median overall survival was 7.5 months for those receiving both treatments and 10.7 months for those receiving radiosurgery alone.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology on May 31, 2015.