Clinical Course and Pathologic Findings after Gliadel® and Radiotherapy for Newly Diagnosed Malignant Glioma: Implications for Patient Management

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Randomized trials have demonstrated Gliadel® improves survival for appropriately selected patients with newly diagnosed malignant glioma. As only limited information is available to guide the management of patients who have Gliadel® controlled-release BCNU wafers implanted in the cranial resection cavity prior to radiotherapy (RT), this retrospective review was conducted to describe clinical course, toxicity, and pathologic findings after this therapy for newly diagnosed malignant glioma. Forty-six consecutive patients receiving Gliadel® (3.8% BCNU impregnated wafers) followed by radiotherapy for newly diagnosed malignant glioma at Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1990 to August 1999 were identified, although one was lost to follow up and is excluded. Patients were evaluated for postoperative infection, pathology at reoperation, and survival. Twenty-eight patients received radiotherapy at Johns Hopkins and these patients are also evaluable for toxicity experienced during and one month after completion of RT. The median age of all patients is 57 years. Eighty-nine percent had glioblastoma, and median follow-up of surviving glioblastoma patients is 16.8 (12-20) months. Postoperative infection or need for reoperation within 30 days was uncommon after Gliadel® placement. Full-dose radiotherapy was tolerable after Gliadel® implantation. Five patients (19%) developed neurologic symptoms during radiotherapy responding to increased steroids and/or anticonvulsants, whereas an additional 8 of 27 (30%) developed neurologic symptoms during dexamethasone taper that responded to increases in dexamethasone dose. At one month after RT, 58% of patients were still on dexamethasone despite attempted taper. Fifteen of 45 patients, 33% underwent reoperation or biopsy for a new local contrast-enhancing lesion. In five of 15 (33%) the reoperation revealed necrosis or treatment effect without active tumor. Two of five patients with treatment/effect necrosis had a third surgery 2.9 and 3.2 months after the initial reoperation, and treatment effect/necrosis without tumor was demonstrated in both cases. The Kaplan-Meier median survival for all the glioblastoma patients is 12.8 (95% CI 9.6, 15.9) months. For glioblastoma patients under 55 years old, median survival is 15.9 (95% CI 13.5, too few events) months whereas for older patients it is 9.6 (7.7, 14.4) months. We conclude that Gliadel® followed by full-dose standard radiotherapy is acutely well tolerated, although, close supervision should be emphasized during dexamethasone taper. Median survival in excess of one year suggests that there are not complications that result in overall premature death. The finding of necrosis/treatment effect was noted in five of 45 (11%) of all patients and five of 15 (33%) of those undergoing reoperation. Therefore, the possibility of necrosis/treatment effect should be considered for each patient with radiographic findings suspicious for local recurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Investigation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004


  • BCNU
  • Gliadel
  • Glioblastoma
  • Radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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