Interventions for the treatment of brain radionecrosis (radiation-induced damage) after brain radiation treatment

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Two RCTs and one prospective non-randomised study evaluating pharmacological interventions met the inclusion criteria for this review. As each study evaluated a different drug or intervention using different endpoints, a meta-analysis was not possible. There were no trials of non-pharmacological interventions that met the inclusion criteria.

A very small randomised, double-blind, placebocontrolled trial of bevacizumab versus placebo reported that 100% (7/7) of participants on bevacizumab had reduction in brain oedema by at least 25% and reduction in post-gadolinium enhancement, whereas all those receiving placebo had clinical or radiological worsening or both. This was an encouraging finding but due to the small sample size we did not report a relative effect. The authors also failed to provide adequate details regarding the randomisation and blinding procedures Therefore, the certainty of this evidence is low and a larger RCT adhering to reporting standards is needed.

An open-label RCT demonstrated a greater reduction in brain oedema (T2 hyperintensity) in the edaravone plus corticosteroid group than in the corticosteroid alone group (MD was 3.03 (95% CI 0.14 to 5.92; low-certainty evidence due to high risk of bias and imprecision); although the result approached borderline significance, there was no evidence of any important difference in the reduction in post-gadolinium enhancement between arms (MD = 0.47, 95% CI – 0.80 to 1.74; low-certainty evidence due to high risk of bias and imprecision).

In the RCT of bevacizumab versus placebo, all seven participants receiving bevacizumab were reported to have neurological improvement, whereas five of seven participants on placebo had neurological worsening (very low-certainty evidence due to small sample size and concerns over validity of analyses). While no adverse events were noted with placebo, three severe adverse events were noted with bevacizumab, which included aspiration pneumonia, pulmonary embolus and superior sagittal sinus thrombosis. In the RCT of corticosteroids with or without edaravone, the participants who received the combination treatment were noted to have significantly greater clinical improvement than corticosteroids alone based on LENT/SOMA scale (OR = 2.51, 95% CI 1.26 to 5.01; low-certainty evidence due to open-label design). No differences in treatment toxicities were observed between arms.

One included prospective non-randomised study of alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) versus no active treatment was found but it did not include any radiological assessment. As only one included study was a double-blinded randomised controlled trial, the other studies were prone to selection and detection biases.

None of the included studies reported quality of life outcomes or adequately reported details about corticosteroid requirements.

A limited number of prospective studies were identified but subsequently excluded as these studies had a limited number of participants evaluating different pharmacological interventions using variable endpoints.