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Katzendobler, Sophie; Do, Anna; Weller, Jonathan; Rejeski, Kai; Dorostkar, Mario M.; Albert, Nathalie L.; Forbrig, Robert; Niyazi, Maximilian; Egensperger, Rupert; Tonn, Joerg-Christian; von Baumgarten, Louisa; Quach, Stefanie; Thon, Niklas (2022): The value of stereotactic biopsy of primary and recurrent brain metastases in the era of precision medicine. Frontiers in Oncology, 12. ISSN 2234-943X

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Background: Brain metastases (BM) represent the most frequent intracranial tumors with increasing incidence. Many primary tumors are currently treated in protocols that incorporate targeted therapies either upfront or for progressive metastatic disease. Hence, molecular markers are gaining increasing importance in the diagnostic framework of BM. In cases with diagnostic uncertainty, both in newly diagnosed or recurrent BM, stereotactic biopsy serves as an alternative to microsurgical resection particularly whenever resection is not deemed to be safe or feasible. This retrospective study aimed to analyze both diagnostic yield and safety of an image-guided frame based stereotactic biopsy technique (STX).

Material and methods: Our institutional neurosurgical data base was searched for any surgical procedure for suspected brain metastases between January 2016 and March 2021. Of these, only patients with STX were included. Clinical parameters, procedural complications, and tissue histology and concomitant molecular signature were assessed.

Results: Overall, 467 patients were identified including 234 (50%) with STX. Median age at biopsy was 64 years (range 29 – 87 years). MRI was used for frame-based trajectory planning in every case with additional PET-guidance in 38 cases (16%). In total, serial tumor probes provided a definite diagnosis in 230 procedures (98%). In 4 cases (1.7%), the pathological tissue did not allow a definitive neuropathological diagnosis. 24 cases had to be excluded due to non-metastatic histology, leaving 206 cases for further analyses. 114 patients (49%) exhibited newly diagnosed BM, while 46 patients (20%) displayed progressive BM. Pseudoprogression was seen in 46 patients, a median of 12 months after prior therapy. Pseudoprogression was always confirmed by clinical course. Metastatic tissue was found most frequently from lung cancer (40%), followed by breast cancer (9%), and malignant melanoma (7%). Other entities included gastrointestinal cancer, squamous cell cancer, renal cell carcinoma, and thyroid cancer, respectively. In 9 cases (4%), the tumor origin could not be identified (cancer of unknown primary). Molecular genetic analyses were successful in 137 out of 144 analyzed cases (95%). Additional next-generation sequencing revealed conclusive results in 12/18 (67%) cases. Relevant peri-procedural complications were observed in 5 cases (2.4%), which were all transient. No permanent morbidity or mortality was noted.

Conclusion: In patients with BM, frame-based stereotactic biopsy constitutes a safe procedure with a high diagnostic yield. Importantly, this extended to discerning pseudoprogression from tumor relapse after prior therapy. Thus, comprehensive molecular characterization based on minimal-invasive stereotactic biopsies lays the foundation for precision medicine approaches in the treatment of primary and recurrent BM.

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