Recently published results of quality of life (QoL) studies indicated different outcomes of palliative radiotherapy for brain metastases. This prospective multi-center QoL study of patients with brain metastases was designed to investigate which QoL domains improve or worsen after palliative radiotherapy and which might provide prognostic information.
From 01/2007-01/2009, n=151 patients with previously untreated brain metastases were recruited at 14 centers in Germany and Austria. Most patients (82 %) received whole-brain radiotherapy. QoL was measured with the EORTC-QLQ-C15-PAL and brain module BN20 before the start of radiotherapy and after 3 months.
At 3 months, 88/142 (62 %) survived. Nine patients were not able to be followed up. 62 patients (70.5 % of 3-month survivors) completed the second set of questionnaires. Three months after the start of radiotherapy QoL deteriorated significantly in the areas of global QoL, physical function, fatigue, nausea, pain, appetite loss, hair loss, drowsiness, motor dysfunction, communication deficit and weakness of legs. Although the use of corticosteroid at 3 months could be reduced compared to pre-treatment (63 % vs. 37 %), the score for headaches remained stable. Initial QoL at the start of treatment was better in those alive than in those deceased at 3 months, significantly for physical function, motor dysfunction and the symptom scales fatigue, pain, appetite loss and weakness of legs. In a multivariate model, lower Karnofsky performance score, higher age and higher pain ratings before radiotherapy were prognostic of 3-month survival.
Moderate deterioration in several QoL domains was predominantly observed three months after start of palliative radiotherapy for brain metastases. Future studies will need to address the individual subjective benefit or burden from such treatment. Baseline QoL scores before palliative radiotherapy for brain metastases may contain prognostic information.