Carbon ions therapy as single treatment in chordoma of the sacrum. Histologic and metabolic outcome studies

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OBJECTIVE: Even though carbon ions treatment (CIRT) of sacral chordoma (SC) substantially reduces tumor mass, tumor remnants are observed in most patients. Differentiating tumor remnants from necrosis is challenging, expensive in terms of imaging and time-consuming. So far, there has not been a systematic histological and metabolic analysis of post-CIRT lesions. We designed a prospective study aiming to histologically a metabolically differentiate between viable tumor and foci of necrosis and of fibrosclerosis after CIRT and correlate these findings to clinical outcome in patients with SC.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Between January 2013 and December 2016 18 patients, 12 males and 6 females, with histological confirmation of sacral chordoma, underwent CIRT. The total dose was 70.4 GyE, with a daily fraction of 4.4 GyE, for 4 weeks. MRI was performed every three months after treatment. FDG PET-CT scan and CT-guided needle biopsy were performed 6-12 months after CIRT. The incidence of complications (intraoperative and postoperative), local control (LC), overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), changes in neurological status, clinical outcomes and toxicity were considered.

RESULTS: All histological analysis but 2 reported signs of necrosis and of fibrosclerosis after CIRT. One of these 2 patients turned into a dedifferentiated chordoma. Radiological partial response (PR) was observed in 10 patients (56.3%) and stable disease (SD) in 5 patients (28.3). Two patients (11%) had a local relapse. The overall survival rate was 100% at 24 months. FDG PET CT after CIRT showed uptake decreasing compared with the baseline exam in all but one patient.

CONCLUSIONS: The histological presence of necrosis and of fibrosclerosis after CIRT at the histological analysis supports the previous clinical evidence on the efficacy of CIRT. Volumetric stability of the residual mass should be considered as a success of treatment. In cases of a volumetric increase of the mass, a CT needle biopsy should always be performed. In our series, during the follow-up, the FDG-PET was able to promptly detect an increased uptake in the case which later was histologically defined as dedifferentiated chordoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4002-4009
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Chordoma
  • Carbon ions therapy
  • Particle therapy
  • PET-TC
  • Biopsy


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