Transient enlargement of craniopharyngioma after radiation therapy: Pattern of magnetic resonance imaging response following radiation

Zheng Shi, Natia Esiashvili, Anna J. Janss, Claire M. Mazewski, Tobey J. Macdonald, David M. Wrubel, Barunashish Brahma, Frederick P. Schwaibold, Robert B. Marcus, Ian R. Crocker, Hui Kuo G. Shu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Clinical experience suggests that craniopharyngiomas may temporarily increase in size after radiation therapy (RT). The study goal is to determine the incidence and natural history of this response in a cohort of patients managed at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) or Emory Healthcare (EHC). Between 08/1998 and 06/2009, 41 children and young adults were diagnosed with craniopharyngioma at CHOA and/or EHC. Of these, 21 received external-beam radiation and were included in our analysis. Serial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies were evaluated volumetrically to assess response to RT. Median age at diagnosis was 8.2 years (range 3.2-23.5 years). Median radiation dose was 54.0 Gy using standard fractionation (1.8-2.0 Gy/day). With median follow-up of 41.3 months (range 7.2-121.8 months), actuarial local control and overall survival rates at 5 years were 78.7 % and 100 %, respectively. Of subjects, 52.4 % of subjects (11 of 21) were noted on serial MRI evaluation to have tumor enlargement (mostly cystic component) after radiation before eventual shrinkage without further intervention. For tumors that expanded, the median volume increase was 33.9 % (range 15.6-224.4 %). Median time to maximal tumor/cyst expansion was 1.5 months (range 1.0-5.0 months). Finally, nearly all patients (20 of 21) showed a measurable objective response to therapy by MRI regardless of ultimate disease control. Median time to maximal response post-radiation, as defined by MRI, was 9.5 months (range 3.5-39.9 months). In summary, RT is effective for managing craniopharyngioma. However, despite good ultimate responses, approximately 50 % of the patients show tumor/cyst expansion on MRI over the first few months post-radiation. Caution should be taken not to subject these patients to "salvage surgery" or cyst aspiration during this early time unless there are other overriding surgical indications. Understanding the natural history of this phenomenon could potentially help guide the management of these craniopharyngioma patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-355
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuro-Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Pediatric brain tumor
  • Radiation therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cancer Research


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