Past studies of craniopharyngiomas in children have shown overall survival (OS) up to 95% at 5 years and 80% progression-free survival (PFS) at 5 years, although many of these series predate modern neuroimaging and current therapeutic management. Moreover, little mention has been made of failure patterns for craniopharyngioma in children. To obtain a contemporary assessment of outcome among pediatric craniopharyngioma patients, and also to determine the failure patterns for this tumor, we completed a retrospective study of a consecutive cohort of all children with craniopharyngioma diagnosed at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1980 to 1996. Resection was performed in 30 children, in 8 of whom gross total resection (GTR) was achieved. Initial treatment took the form of GTR followed by observation for 8, subtotal resection (STR) plus observation in 11, and STR followed immediately by radiotherapy in 8. The timing of radiotherapy following STR was unclear for 3. OS was 95.2% (SE= 4.7%) at 5 years, with only 2 children dying after 4 years from diagnosis. Five-year PFS was 59.4% (SE=10.2%). Before surgery, 19 children had visual loss and 15, endocrine deficits; after surgery, 21 children had visual loss and 29, endocrine deficits. Median time to relapse was 0.98 years (SD=2.5 years). Radiographic (n=4) and clinical (n=7) relapses did not differ in time to progression (P=0.32), but radiographic relapses were significantly associated with age at diagnosis less than 5 years (P=0.02). Degree of resection was not significantly associated with PFS (P=0.32) or with postoperative visual or endocrine deficits. Absence of calcification on diagnostic neuroimaging (n=8) was significantly associated with improved PFS [5-year PFS 100% vs. 42.9% (SE=14.7%), P=0.02], even when adjusted for extent of resection (P=0.03). Preoperative visual loss was predictive of postoperative visual loss (P=0.03). Survival for children diagnosed with craniopharyngioma in the current era is outstanding, even with relapse, although postoperative visual and endocrinological morbidities are high. Failures occurred both radiographically and clinically, typically in the first 3-4 years after surgery, suggesting a need for close surveillance initially with neuroimaging, particularly in younger children, and also clinical examination. The short times to relapse observed here may stem from a tendency to delay radiotherapy until recurrence. Lack of calcification at diagnosis is associated with a tendency to remain free of relapse.
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View details for PubMedID 9840379