External beam radiotherapy for primary spinal cord tumors

Ha Chung Chun, Rupert K. Schmidt-Ullrich, Aaron Wolfson, Oscar F. Tercilla, Robert H. Sagerman, Gerald A. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Of 34 evaluated patients with primary spinal cord tumors, 32 were irradiated at our institutions between 1969 and 1983. The results are reported of 32 patients, 16 with ependymoma and 16 with astrocytoma, who were treated with postoperative external beam radiotherapy following biopsy or subtotal resection. Twenty-nine patients received 45-55 Gy megavoltage beam irradiation in five to six weeks, and the remaining three patients received less than 40 Gy. The minimum follow-up was five years. Five- and ten-year actuarial survival rates for the entire group of patients were 73% (22/30) and 50% (8/16), respectively, including three patients who were salvaged by surgery after radiotherapy failures. Corresponding five- and ten-year relapse-free survival rates were 60% (18/30) and 32% (6/19), respectively. Of the 29 patients who received more than 45 Gy, relapse-free survival at five years was 63% (17/27). Treatment failed in 13 patients, and all of those failures were within the irradiated portals. Patients with ependymomas have significantly better relapse free survival than those with astrocytomas, 80% vs. 40% (p < 0.05). There was a significant difference in survival between patients with tumors involving the cervical spine and those with tumors in the other locations, 45% vs. 89% (p < 0.05). There was no significant difference in survival between patients with cauda equina tumors and those with tumors of the spinal cord, 100% vs. 68% (p > 0.05). No radiotherapy-related neurological deficit was noted with a maximum 20 year follow-up. This study confirms that external beam radiotherapy is a safe and effective treatment modality for primary spinal cord tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-217
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neuro-oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • radiotherapy
  • spinal cord tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cancer Research
  • Neuroscience(all)


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