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Open Access Research

Use of palliative radiotherapy in brain and bone metastases (VARA II study)

Jose Expósito1*, Javier Jaén2, Enrique Alonso3 and Isabel Tovar1

Author Affiliations

1 Radiation Oncology Department, Virgen de las Nieves University Hospital, Avd Fuerzas Armadas 4, Granada 18014, Spain

2 Institute of Oncology Cartuja, Sevilla, Spain

3 Radiation Oncology Department, Puerta del Mar University Hospital, Cádiz, Spain

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Radiation Oncology 2012, 7:131  doi:10.1186/1748-717X-7-131

Published: 3 August 2012



Metastases are detected in 20% of patients with solid tumours at diagnosis and a further 30% after diagnosis. Radiation therapy (RT) has proven effective in bone (BM) and brain (BrM) metastases. The objective of this study was to analyze the variability of RT utilization rates in clinical practice and the accessibility to medical technology in our region.

Patients and methods

We reviewed the clinical records and RT treatment sheets of all patients undergoing RT for BM and/or BrM during 2007 in the 12 public hospitals in an autonomous region of Spain. Data were gathered on hospital type, patient type and RT treatment characteristics. Calculation of the rate of RT use was based on the cancer incidence and the number of RT treatments for BM, BrM and all cancer sites.


Out of the 9319 patients undergoing RT during 2007 for cancer at any site, 1242 (13.3%; inter-hospital range, 26.3%) received RT for BM (n = 744) or BrM (n = 498). These 1242 patients represented 79% of all RT treatments with palliative intent, and the most frequent primary tumours were in lung, breast, prostate or digestive system. No significant difference between BM and BrM groups were observed in: mean age (62 vs. 59 yrs, respectively); gender (approximately 64% male and 36% female in both); performance status (ECOG 0–1 in 70 vs. 71%); or mean distance from hospital (36 vs. 28.6 km) or time from consultation to RT treatment (13 vs. 14.3 days). RT regimens differed among hospitals and between patient groups: 10 × 300 cGy, 5 × 400 cGy and 1x800cGy were applied in 32, 27 and 25%, respectively, of BM patients, whereas 10 × 300cGy was used in 49% of BrM patients.


Palliative RT use in BM and BrM is high and close to the expected rate, unlike the global rate of RT application for all cancers in our setting. Differences in RT schedules among hospitals may reflect variability in clinical practice among the medical teams.

Palliative radiation therapy; Variability; Bone metastases; Brain metastases