TAMPA, Fla--The average brain tumor patient survives just 1 year after diagnosis, so long-term survival, defined as living at least 100% longer than the median survival of historical controls, is especially remarkable. Previous studies have shown that only 7% to 10% of brain cancer patients survive long-term.
Why a small number of patients have survived for 4, 10, even 20 years is not clearly understood, but a few prognostic factors are beginning to emerge, said Surasak Phuphanich, MD, chief of neurology services, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.
Dr. Phuphanich spoke to a group of 45 survivors, their families, and physicians at Moffitt's Brain Cancer Survivor Day luncheon (see photo).
Moffitt held the program to recognize its own patients with primary malignant gliomas who have survived between 4.2 years and 20 years. Their ages range from 8 to 58 years (median, 33). Nine are males and 10 are females. Many of them are working and leading normal lives.
Dr. Phuphanich and his colleagues have identified six factors that appear to influence long-term survival.
1. Age at diagnosis. "People younger than 45 tend to do better. We don't know why, but it may be because younger people have better immune system response and can tolerate treatment better," he said.
2. Type of brain tumor. Patients with anaplastic astrocytoma tumors tend to survive longer than those with glioblas-toma multiforme, the most deadly. Sixty percent of tumors are glioblastoma multiforme, and even patients receiving surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy typically survive for only 1 year, Dr. Phuphanich said.