BACKGROUND - The management of craniopharyngiomas has historically been controversial in terms of the extent of initial surgical resection and the use of additional treatments. Various options include radical excision versus a more conservative surgical approach followed by external beam radiation; most recently, intracystic 32P radiation has been used in selected patients.
METHODS - We reviewed our experience with 25 patients with craniopharyngiomas treated between 1984 and 1999 to assess the effectiveness of external beam radiation and intracystic 32P radiation therapy in preventing progression and recurrence of local disease.
RESULTS - All patients underwent surgery as a component of initial therapy for their histologically-proven craniopharyngiomas. Fifteen patients additionally received external beam radiation. Forty-five percent of patients who underwent incomplete resections followed by external beam radiation required additional therapy. In contrast, 80% of patients who had incomplete resections without post-operative external beam radiation required further treatment. Seven patients had intracystic 32P colloid injections. Neither of the two patients receiving 32P intracystic radiation as part of their initial therapy needed further treatment. Only one of the five patients receiving 32P intracavitary radiation for disease progression following initial therapy required further intervention. Of the remaining four patients, three enjoyed responses to treatment and one had stable disease.
CONCLUSIONS - Our observations support the use of external beam radiation for prevention of tumor progression in adults unable to receive a complete surgical resection. Our results additionally suggest that intracystic 32P radiation results in control of cystic components of craniopharyngiomas in the majority of cases.