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The role of radiation and chemotherapy in adult patients with high-grade brainstem gliomas: results from the National Cancer Database



Surgical resection of high-grade brainstem gliomas is challenging and treatment mostly involves radiation and chemotherapy. In this study, we utilized registry data to determine prognostic features and impact of chemotherapy and radiation on overall survival.


The National Cancer Database was queried from 2006 to 2015 for adult cases with histologically confirmed high-grade brainstem glioma. Covariates including patient demographics, comorbidities, tumor characteristics and treatment parameters were captured. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression was performed to identify predictors of survival.


A total of 422 patients were analyzed. Most patients (66.6%) underwent postoperative radiation with chemotherapy, 9.2% underwent radiation alone, while the remaining had no postoperative treatment (24.2%). Overall median survival was 9.8 months (95% CI 8.8–12). Survival was longer (p < 0.001) in the radiation + chemotherapy group (median: 14.2 months, 95% CI 11.7–17.1) compared to radiation alone (median: 5.7 months, 95% CI 3.7–12) and no postoperative treatment (median: 1.8 months, 95% CI 1.4–4) groups. In multivariable analysis, increasing age was associated with worse survival (HR: 1.87, 95% CI 1.47–2.37, p < 0.001), whereas radiation + chemotherapy was associated with lower mortality compared to radiation alone (HR: 0.67, 95% CI 0.46–0.98, p = 0.038). In subgroup analysis, postoperative chemotherapy with radiation was associated with significant survival benefit compared to radiation alone for grade IV (HR: 0.46, 95% CI 0.28–0.76, p = 0.003), but not for grade III tumors (HR: 0.87, 95% CI 0.48–1.58, p = 0.65).


Analysis from a national registry illustrated the effectiveness of radiation with chemotherapy for adult patients with high-grade brainstem gliomas, particularly grade IV. Further research should identify specific patient profiles and molecular subgroups that are more likely to benefit from multimodality therapy.

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Author information

PK: Conceptualization and design, data collection, analysis and drafting of manuscript. AG: Conceptualization and design, drafting of manuscript. VML: reviewing and revising original draft. MAA: reviewing and revising original draft. MB: reviewing and revising original draft. SK: study supervision, reviewing and revising original draft. TB: study supervision, reviewing and revising original draft.

Correspondence to Terry C. Burns.

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Kerezoudis, P., Goyal, A., Lu, V.M. et al. The role of radiation and chemotherapy in adult patients with high-grade brainstem gliomas: results from the National Cancer Database. J Neurooncol 146, 303–310 (2020).

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  • Adults
  • High-grade
  • Brainstem
  • Glioma
  • Survival
  • Surgery
  • Diagnosis