A long time ago, metastatic brain tumors were often not treated and patients were only given palliative care. In the past decade, researchers selected those with single or 1-3 metastases for more aggressive treatments like surgical resection, and/or stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), since the addition of whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT) did not increase overall survival for the vast majority of patients. Different studies demonstrated significantly less cognitive deterioration in 0-52% patients after SRS versus 85-94% after WBRT at 6 months. WBRT is treatment of choice for leptomeningeal metastases. WBRT can lower the risk for further brain metastases, particularly in tumors of fast brain metastasis velocity, i.e. quickly relapsing, often seen in melanoma or small cell lung carcinoma. Important relevant literature is quoted to clarify the clinical controversies at point of care in this review. Synchronous primary lung cancer and brain metastasis represents a special situation whereby the oncologist should exercise discretion for curative treatments, with reported 5-year survival rates of 7.6%-34.6%. Recent research suggests that those patients with Karnofsky performance status less than 70, not capable of caring for themselves, are less likely to derive benefit from aggressive treatments. Among patients with brain metastases from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the QUARTZ trial (Quality of Life after Radiotherapy for Brain Metastases) helps the oncologist to decide when not to treat, depending on the performance status and other factors.
Keywords: brain tumors, palliative care, metastases, surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, whole brain radiotherapy
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