Brain metastases: advances over the decades

Posted On 2015-12-21 17:09:43

Background: The morbidity and mortality associated with metastatic disease to brain make this problem a formidable challenge faced by health care providers and caregivers. The aim of this review is to summarize management for patients with brain metastases with a particular focus on symptom management.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed. Outcomes of interest included survival, brain control (local in field and whole brain). In particular, symptom control (quality of life, neurological function and neurocognition) was examined.

Results: Steroids provide relief of symptoms due to intra-cerebral edema. The steroid of choice is dexamethasone. Anti-seizure medications should not be given as prophylaxis but instead be given for treatment of seizures. Depending on patient, tumour and treatment factors, management for brain metastases range from optimal supportive care including the use of steroids, whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT), radiosurgery, surgery alone or in combination. Surgery or radiosurgery improves survival for selected patients with single brain metastasis as compared to WBRT alone. Ongoing research topics include focal postoperative cavity radiation, focal fractionated regimens, molecular targeted therapies, chemoprevention of brain metastases and neurocognitive protection (such as neuro-protective drugs and radiation techniques such as hippocampal sparing).

Conclusions: The management of brain metastases has evolved over the decades. Other than survival and brain control (local in-field and whole brain), the outcomes of quality of life and neurocognition are becoming increasingly important.