Evaluating the Optimal Management of Inoperable Giant Cell Tumors of the Spine: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Paolo Palmisciano, Gianluca Ferini, Andrew L. Chen, Kishore Balasubramanian, Abdurrahman F. Kharbat, Navraj S. Sagoo, Othman Bin Alamer, Gianluca Scalia, Giuseppe E. Umana, Salah G. Aoun, Ali S. Haider

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Surgical resection remains the preferred treatment in spine giant cell tumors (SGCTs), but it is not always feasible. Conservative strategies have been studied for inoperable cases. We systematically reviewed the literature on inoperable SGCTs treated with denosumab, radiotherapy or selective arterial embolization (SAE). Methods: PubMed, Scopus, Web-of-Science, Ovid-EMBASE, and Cochrane were searched following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines to include studies of inoperable SGCTs treated with denosumab, radiotherapy or SAE. Treatment outcomes were analyzed and compared with a random-effect model meta-analysis. Results: Among the 17 studies included, 128 patients received denosumab, 59 radiotherapy, and 43 SAE. No significant differences in baseline patient characteristics were found between the three groups. All strategies were equally effective in providing symptom improvement (p = 0.187, I2 = 0%) and reduction in tumor volume (p = 0.738, I2 = 56.8%). Rates of treatment-related complications were low (denosumab: 12.5%; radiotherapy: 8.5%; SAE: 18.6%) and comparable (p = 0.311, I2 = 0%). Patients receiving denosumab had significantly lower rates of local tumor recurrence (10.9%) and distant metastases (0%) compared to patients receiving radiotherapy (30.5%; 8.5%) or SAE (35.6%; 7%) (p = 0.003, I2 = 32%; p = 0.002, I2 = 47%). Denosumab was also correlated with significantly higher overall survival rates at 18 months (99.2%) and 24 months (99.2%) compared to radiotherapy (91.5%; 89.6%) and SAE (92.5%; 89.4%) (p = 0.019, I2 = 8%; p = 0.004, I2 = 23%). Mortality was higher in patients receiving SAE (20.9%) or radiotherapy (13.6%) compared to denosumab (0.8%) (p < 0.001), but deaths mostly occurred for unrelated diseases. Conclusions: Denosumab, radiotherapy, and SAE are safe and effective for inoperable SGCTs. Clinical and radiological outcomes are mostly comparable, but denosumab may provide superior tumor control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number937
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Denosumab
  • Embolization
  • Giant cell tumor
  • Radiotherapy
  • Spine oncology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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