Delayed Effects of Whole Brain Radiotherapy in Germ Cell Tumor Patients With Central Nervous System Metastases

Danielle M. Doyle, Lawrence H. Einhorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Purpose: Central nervous system (CNS) metastases are uncommon in patients with germ cell tumors, with an incidence of 2-3%. CNS metastases have been managed with whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT) and concomitant cisplatin-based combination chemotherapy. Our previous study did not observe serious CNS toxicity (Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 1991;22:17-22). We now report on 5 patients who developed delayed significant CNS toxicity. Patients and Methods: We observed 5 patients with delayed CNS toxicity. The initial diagnosis was between 1981 and 2003. All patients had poor-risk disease according to the International Germ Cell Consensus Collaborative Group criteria. Of the 5 patients, 3 had CNS metastases at diagnosis and 2 developed relapses with CNS metastases. These 5 patients underwent WBRT to 4,000-5,000 cGy in 18-28 fractions concurrently with cisplatin-based chemotherapy. Results: All 5 patients developed delayed symptoms consistent with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. The symptoms included seizures, hemiparesis, cranial neuropathy, headaches, blindness, dementia, and ataxia. The median time from WBRT to CNS symptoms was 72 months (range, 9-228). Head imaging revealed multiple abnormalities consistent with gliosis and diffuse cerebral atrophy. Of the 5 patients, 3 had progressive and 2 stable symptoms. Treatment with surgery and/or steroids had modest benefit. The progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy resulted in significant debility in all 5 patients, resulting in death (3 patients), loss of work, steroid-induced morbidity, and recurrent hospitalizations. Conclusion: Whole brain radiotherapy is not innocuous in young patients with germ cell tumors and can cause late CNS toxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1361-1364
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008


  • Brain metastasis
  • Germ cell tumor
  • Radiation encephalopathy
  • Whole brain radiotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiation

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