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The role of brachytherapy in the management of brain metastases: a systematic review.

PURPOSE: Brain metastases have a highly variable prognosis depending on the primary tumor and associated prognostic factors. Standard of care for patients with these tumors includes craniotomy, stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), or whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT) for patients with brain metastases. Brachytherapy shows great promise as a therapy for brain metastases, but its role has not been sufficiently explored in the current literature.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: The PubMed, Cochrane, and Scopus databases were searched using a combination of search terms and synonyms for brachytherapy, brain neoplasms, and brain metastases, for articles published between January 1st , 1990 and January 1st , 2018. Of the 596 articles initially identified, 37 met the inclusion criteria, of which 14 were review articles, while the remaining 23 papers with detailing individual studies were fully analyzed.

RESULTS: Most data focused on 125 I and suggested that it offers rates of local control and overall survival comparable to standard of care modalities such as SRS. However, radiation necrosis and regional recurrence were often high with this isotope. Studies using photon radiosurgery modality of brachytherapy have also been completed, resulting superior regional control as compared to SRS, but worse local control and higher rates of radiation necrosis than 125 I. More recently, studies using the 131 Cs for brachytherapy offered similar local control and survival benefits to 125 I, with low rates of radiation necrosis.

CONCLUSIONS: For a variety of reasons including absence of physician expertise in brachytherapy, lack of published data on treatment outcomes, and rates of radiation necrosis, brachytherapy is not presently a part of standard paradigm for brain metastases. However, our review indicates brachytherapy as a modality that offers excellent local control and quality of life, and suggested that its use should be further studied.

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