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The treatment of brain metastases in melanoma patients

D Bafaloukos, H Gogas
Cancer Treatment Reviews 2004, 30 (6): 515-20
The incidence of central nervous system (CNS) metastases in patients with melanoma ranges from 10% to 40% in clinical studies and is even higher in autopsy series with as many as two-thirds of patients with metastatic melanoma having CNS involvement. Treatment options for patients with cerebral metastases are limited and depend largely on the number and the size of the lesions and on the extracranial extension of metastatic disease. This report gives the results of different treatment modalities in patients with melanoma metastases to the brain. As data from prospective randomized studies are lacking, the general recommendations based on clinical series reports are: (i) the combination of surgery and whole-brain radiotherapy (WBRT) is superior to WBRT alone for the treatment of single brain metastasis in patients with limited or absent systemic disease and good neurological condition. (ii) Radio surgery, alone or in conjunction with WBRT, yields results which are comparable to those reported after surgery followed by WBRT, provided that the lesion's diameter does not exceed 3 cm. With the use of WBRT after surgery or radio surgery the local control seems better (with the combined approach), but the overall survival does not improve. (iii) WBRT alone or in combination with chemotherapy is the treatment of choice in patients with single brain metastasis not amenable to surgery or radio surgery, with an active systemic disease, and in patients with multiple brain metastases. Chemotherapy may be also offered to patients with a good performance status, or after recurrence to local therapy.

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