PURPOSE: The aims of patients' radiological surveillance are to: ascertain relapse; apply second-line therapy; accrue patients in phase 1/2 protocols if second-line therapy is not standardized/curative; and assess/treat iatrogenic effects. To lessen the emotional and socioeconomic burdens for patients and families, we ideally need to establish whether scheduled radiological surveillance gives patients a better outcome than waiting for symptoms and signs to appear.
METHODS: We analyzed a prospective series of 160 newly-diagnosed and treated pediatric/adolescent patients with intracranial ependymoma, comparing patients with recurrent disease identified on scheduled MRI (the RECPT group; 34 cases) with those showing signs/symptoms of recurrent disease (the SYMPPT group; 16 cases). The median follow-up was 67 months.
RESULTS: No significant differences emerged between the two groups in terms of gender, age, tumor grade/site, shunting, residual disease, or type of relapse (local, distant, or concomitant). The time to relapse (median 19 months; range 5-104) and the MRI follow-up intervals did not differ between the SYMPPT and RECPT groups. The presence of signs/symptoms was an unfavorable factor for overall survival (OS) after recurrence (5-year OS: 8% vs. 37%, p = 0.001). On multivariable analysis, an adjusted model confirmed a significantly worse OS in the SYMPPT than in the RECPT patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Symptomatic relapses carried a significantly worse survival for ependymoma patients than recurrences detected by MRI alone. It would therefore be desirable to identify recurrences before symptoms develop. Radiological follow-up should be retained in ependymoma patient surveillance because there is a chance of salvage treatment for relapses found on MRI.