SAN DIEGO – Medical management with sirolimus or everolimus for pediatric patients with tuberous sclerosis complex and subependymal giant cell astrocytomas is more effective and safer than surgery, researchers from the University of Cincinnati and University of California, Los Angeles, have found.
Although the benign tumors have traditionally been left to surgeons, it’s become clear in recent years that rapamycin analogs are effective, too. The question has been "which [approach] is best? Medical management "is known to be pretty mild compared to the surgery," but it’s not curative, explained lead investigator Susanne Yoon, the University of Cincinnati medical student who presented the results at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.
The team compared outcomes for 23 SEGA (subependymal giant cell astrocytoma) patients who underwent surgery, 81 who took sirolimus or everolimus, and 9 who got both. The surgery patients were diagnosed when they were about 10 years old and were followed for a median of 8.9 years; the medical patients were about 7 years old when diagnosed, and were followed for a median of 2.8 years. Boys made up the majority of both groups.
None of the children who took a rapamycin analog needed surgery; tumors shrank by more than half in 61% (45). The drugs caused infections, weight change, or hyperlipidemia in some, but only 13% (11) needed to stop the drug or go to the hospital because of side effects.
Meanwhile, surgery cured just 39% (9) of the children who got it, sometimes after two or three operations; 61% (14) of those patients had prolonged hospitalizations or were hospitalized due to postoperative complications that included intracranial hemorrhage in 8, hydrocephalus/shunt malfunction in 6, neurologic impairment, and seizures.
"Not only does medical management win in efficacy, but it also wins in the safety issues. Rapalog [rapamycin] therapy, alone or in combination, is becoming a cornerstone of tumor management" in neurocutaneous disorders, said Dr. David H. Viskochil, professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, commenting on the study.
"Of course, there are emergent situations where you’ve just got to go in and get the tumor out; you can’t wait 3 months to see" if drugs work. "But if a child is just starting to show some symptoms and not deteriorating, then you can start with medicine first and see what happens," he said.
"The question is if you got [SEGAs] really early, would surgical cure be much more likely? The studies aren’t quite there yet," he said in an interview.
Ms. Yoon and Dr. Viskochil said they have no disclosures.