Brain metastases in patients with breast cancer: new horizons.
Brain metastases occur in as many as one third of patients with disseminated breast cancer. In this article, we discuss various presentations of brain metastases from breast cancer and review evidence that supports different treatment options. Because no prospective, randomized, controlled studies, to our knowledge, have focused solely on patients with brain metastases from breast cancer, we will first review retrospective studies of patients with brain metastases from breast cancer. Randomized studies of patients with brain metastases caused by multiple primary cancers will also be examined, and the conclusions from these studies will be extrapolated to patients with breast cancer. Because brain metastases from breast cancer occur in a variety of different clinical settings, ranging from a single metastasis without extensive extracranial disease to multiple brain metastases with widespread extracranial disease, treatment approaches must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each patient. For different clinical scenarios, neurosurgical resection, radiosurgery, and/or whole-brain radiation therapy may be appropriate treatment options. For patients with brain metastases from breast cancer that overexpresses HER2/neu, trastuzumab could alter the natural history of the non-central nervous system (CNS) disease. Therefore, HER2 status could also influence the treatment of brain metastases from breast cancer. Given the prevalence of brain metastases in patients with metastatic breast cancer in contemporary series, the rationale for clinical trials of CNS screening and prophylactic cranial irradiation will be discussed.
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