Journal of Neuro-Oncology

, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 85–99 | Cite as

Leptomeningeal metastases from solid malignancy: a review

  • Sophie Taillibert
  • Florence Laigle-Donadey
  • Catherine Chodkiewicz
  • Marc Sanson
  • Khê Hoang-Xuan
  • Jean-Yves Delattre


Leptomeningeal metastases (LMM) consist of diffuse involvement of the leptomeninges by infiltrating cancer cells. In solid tumors, the most frequent primary sites are lung and breast cancers, two tumors where the incidence of LMM is apparently increasing. Careful neurological examination is required to demonstrate multifocal involvement of the central nervous system (CNS), cranial nerves, and spinal roots, which constitute the clinical hallmark of the disease. Cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) analysis is almost always abnormal but only a positive cytology or demonstration of intrathecal synthesis of tumor markers is diagnostic. T1-weighted gadolinium-enhanced sequence of the entire neuraxis (brain and spine) plays an important role in supporting the diagnosis, demonstrating the involved sites and guiding treatment. Radionuclide CSF flow studies detect CSF compartmentalization and are useful for treatment planning. Standard therapy relies mainly on focal irradiation and intrathecal or systemic chemotherapy. Studies using other therapeutic approaches such as new biological or cytotoxic compounds are ongoing. The overall prognosis remains grim and quality of life should remain the priority when deciding which treatment option to apply. However, a sub-group of patients, tentatively defined here, may benefit from an aggressive treatment.


cancer leptomeningeal carcinomatosis leptomeningeal metastases meningeal metastases neoplastic meningitis solid tumors 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie Taillibert
    • 1
  • Florence Laigle-Donadey
    • 1
  • Catherine Chodkiewicz
    • 2
  • Marc Sanson
    • 1
  • Khê Hoang-Xuan
    • 1
  • Jean-Yves Delattre
    • 1
  1. 1.Fédération de NeurologieBatîment Mazarin, Groupe hospitalier Pitié-SalpétrièreParisFrance
  2. 2.Department of Interdisciplinary OncologyH. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research InstituteTampaUSA

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