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Papers of the Week

2022 May




Radiomodulation in Mixed, Complex Cancer Pain by Triple Target Irradiation in the Brain: A Preliminary Experience.


Lovo EE, Moreira A, Cruz C, Carvajal G, Barahona KC, Caceros V, Blanco A, Mejias R, Alho E, Soto T
Cureus. 2022 May; 14(5):e25430.
PMID: 35774662.


Introduction Up to 30% of terminally ill cancer patients experiencing intense pain might be refractory to opioid treatment. Complex cancer pain can be a mixture of somatic, visceral, and neuropathic pain with few or no effective alternatives to ameliorate pain. Radiosurgery to treat refractory pain in cancer has been reported with different degrees of success. Radiomodulation in pain could be defined as a fast (<72 h), substantial (>50%) pain relief by focal irradiation to a peripheric, and/or central mediated pain circuitry. Based on our previous experience, mixed, refractory cancer pain is usually unresponsive to single target irradiation of the hypophysis. We treated three patients using a multi-target approach. Methods Three terminally ill oncological patients experiencing refractory, complex, mixed pain from bone, abdomen, thorax, and brachial plexus were treated with triple target irradiation which consisted of irradiating with a maximum dose (Dmax) of 90 Gy to the hypophysis using either an 8 mm collimator with gamma ray (Infini) (Shenzhen, China: Masep Medical Company) or a 7.5 circular collimator with Cyberknife (Sunnyvale, CA: Accuray Inc.), the other two targets were the mesial structures of the thalamus bilaterally using a 4 mm collimator with Infini and the 5 mm circular collimator with CK delivering 90 Gy Dmax to each region. Patients had a VAS of 10 despite the best medical treatment. A correlation was made between the 45 Gy and 20 Gy isodose curves of the two different technologies to the Morel stereotactic atlas of the thalamus and basal ganglia for further understanding of dose distribution reconstructions in accordance with the São Paulo-Würzburg atlas of the Human Brain Project were performed. Lastly, a scoping review of the literature regarding radiosurgery for oncological pain was performed. Results Radiomodulation effect was achieved in all patients; case 1 had a VAS of five at 72 h, three at 15 days, and three at the time of death (21 days after treatment). Case 2 had a VAS of six at 72 h, five at 15 days, and four at the time of death (29 days after treatment). Case 3 had a VAS of five at 72 h, six at 15 days, and six at the time of death (30 days). Morphine rescues for cases 1 and 2 were reduced to 84%, and 70% for case 3. Overall, there were no adverse effects to treatment although excessive sleepiness was reported by one patient. After reading the title and abstract, only 14 studies remained eligible for full-text evaluation, and only nine studies met inclusion criteria after full-text reading. For most reports (seven), the target was the hypophysis and in two reports, the target was the thalamus either with single or bilateral irradiation. Conclusions In complex, for refractory oncological pain of mixed nature (nociceptive, neuropathic, and visceral), very few, if any, treatment alternatives are currently available. We provide a small proof of concept that multitarget intracranial radiosurgery might be effective in ameliorating pain in this population. The doses administered per target are the lowest that have shown effectiveness thus far, a different strategy might be needed as opposed to single target "large" dose approach that has been tried in the past for complex mixed refractory oncological pain. By no means, in our experience, these treatments traduce in elimination of pain, clinical results might make pain to be more bearable and respond better to pain medication.