BACKGROUND: Adequate prediction of survival is important in deciding on treatment for patients with symptomatic spinal metastases. The authors reviewed 342 patients with painful spinal metastases without neurologic impairment who were treated conservatively within a large, prospectively randomized radiotherapy trial. Response to radiotherapy and prognostic factors for survival were studied. METHODS: The data base of the Dutch Bone Metastasis Study was used. Response to treatment and prognostic factors for overall survival (OS) were studied using a Cox regression model. A scoring system was developed to predict OS. RESULTS: Responses were noted in 73% of patients. In 3% of patients, spinal cord compression was reported a mean of 3.5 months after randomization. The median OS was 7 months, and significant predictors for survival were Karnofsky performance score, primary tumor (multivariate analysis; both P < 0.001), and the absence of visceral metastases (multivariate analysis; P = 0.02). A scoring system based on these predictors was developed, and 34% of patients were in Group A (median OS = 3.0 months), 48% of patients were in Group B (median OS = 9.0 months), and 18% of patients were in Group C (median OS = 18.7 months). Group C was comprised of patients with breast carcinoma, a good performance, and no visceral metastases. CONCLUSIONS: Most patients with spinal metastases have a limited life expectancy and should be treated with caution regarding surgical procedures. Radiotherapy is a safe and effective, noninvasive treatment modality for pain. The new scoring system will enable physicians to select patients who may survive long enough to benefit from more radical treatment. (c) 2004 American Cancer Society.
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