Article Abstract

Potential toxicities of prophylactic cranial irradiation

Authors: Frank A. Giordano, Grit Welzel, Yasser Abo-Madyan, Frederik Wenz


Prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI) with total doses of 20-30 Gy reduces the incidence of brain metastasis (BM) and increases survival of patients with limited and extensive-disease small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) that showed any response to chemotherapy. PCI is currently not applied in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) since it has not proven to significantly improve OS rates in stage IIIA/B, although novel data suggest that subgroups that could benefit may exist.
Here we briefly review potential toxicities of PCI which have to be considered before prescribing PCI. They are mostly difficult to delineate from pre-existing risk factors which include preceding chemotherapy, patient age, paraneoplasia, as well as smoking or atherosclerosis. On the long run, this will force radiation oncologists to evaluate each patient separately and to estimate the individual risk. Where PCI is then considered to be of benefit, novel concepts, such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy and/or neuroprotective drugs with potential to lower the rates of side effects will eventually be superior to conventional therapy. This in turn will lead to a re-evaluation whether benefits might then outweigh the (lowered) risks.