Treatment trends for patients with brain metastases: Does practice reflect the data?

Kiri A. Sandler, Narek Shaverdian, Ryan R. Cook, Amar U. Kishan, Christopher R. King, Isaac Yang, Michael L. Steinberg, Percy Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Published guidelines regarding the optimal treatment strategies for brain metastases focus on patients with ≤3 lesions. As delivery techniques for stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) improve, radiation oncologists are increasingly using it for patients with >3 metastases. In the current study, the authors sought to characterize practice patterns among practitioners to identify areas of controversy. METHODS: A survey of practicing radiation oncologists was distributed via e-mail. Responses were collected from April 1 to May 5, 2016. Survey data were analyzed. RESULTS: A total of 711 currently practicing radiation oncologists responded, for a response rate of 12.5%. Specialists in central nervous system tumors (CNS specialists) were more likely to treat higher numbers of patients with brain metastases with SRS. There was a significant difference in the optimal “cutoff number” used when deciding how many lesions to treat with SRS versus whole-brain radiotherapy. Cutoff numbers were significantly higher for high-volume CNS specialists (≥10 patients/month) than for either low-volume CNS specialists (5-9 patients/month) or high-volume, non-CNS specialists (8.1 vs 5.6 and 5.1, respectively; P<.001). A majority of respondents (56%) identified patients with 4 to 6 brain metastases as being the most challenging patients to treat. CONCLUSIONS: To the authors’ knowledge, there appears to be no consensus regarding the optimal treatment strategy among patients with >3 brain metastases, and practice patterns are heterogeneous. Radiation oncologists, especially high-volume CNS specialists, are treating significantly more brain metastases with SRS than what currently is recommended by published consensus guidelines. Providers struggle with patients with a moderate intracranial disease burden. Further prospective studies are needed to support these practice patterns and guide decision making. Cancer 2017;123:2274–2282.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2274-2282
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • brain metastases
  • patterns of practice
  • radiation
  • stereotactic radiosurgery
  • whole-brain radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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