Fractionated, single-port radiotherapy delays paresis in a metastatic spinal tumor model in rats

Carlos A. Bagley, Markus J. Bookland, Jonathan A. Pindrik, Tolga Ozmen, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Jean Paul Wolinsky, Timothy F. Witham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Object. Spinal column metastatic disease affects thousands of cancer patients every year. Radiation therapy frequently represents the primary treatment for this condition. Despite the enormous clinical impact of spinal column metastatic disease, the literature currently lacks an accurate animal model for testing the efficacy of irradiation on spinal column metastases. Methods. After anesthesia was induced, female Fischer 344 rats underwent a transabdominal approach to the ventral vertebral body (VB) of L-6. A 2- to 3-mm-diameter bur hole was drilled for the implantation of a section of CRL-1666 breast adenocarcinoma. After the animals had recovered from the surgery, they underwent fractionated, single-port radiotherapy beginning on postoperative Day 7. Each group of animals underwent five daily fractions of radiation treatment. Group I animals received a total dose of 10 Gy in 200-cGy daily fractions, Group II animals received a total dose of 20 Gy in 400-cGy daily fractions, and Group III animals received a total dose of 30 Gy in 600-cGy daily fractions. A control group of rats with implanted VB lesions did not receive radiation. To test the effects of radiation toxicity alone, additional rats without implanted tumors received radiation treatments in the same fractions as the rats with tumors. Hindlimb function in all rats was rated before and after radiation treatment using the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan locomotor rating scale. Histological analysis of spinal cord and vertebral column sections was performed after each animal's death. Results. Functional assessments demonstrated a statistically significant delay in the onset of paresis between the three treatment groups and the control group (tumor implanted but no radiotherapy). The rats in the three treatment groups, however, did not exhibit any significant differences related to hindlimb function. A dose-dependent relationship was found for the percentage of animals who had become paralyzed at the time of death, with all members of the control group and no members of the 30-Gy group exhibiting paralysis. The results of this study do not indicate any overall survival benefit for any level of radiation dose. Conclusions. These findings demonstrate the efficacy of focal spinal irradiation in delaying the onset of paralysis in a rat metastatic spine tumor model, but without a clear survival benefit. Because of the dose-related toxicity observed in the rats treated with 30 Gy, this effect was most profound for the 20-Gy group. This finding parallels the observed clinical course of spinal column metastatic disease in humans and provides a basis for the future comparison of novel local and systemic treatments to augment the observed effects of focal irradiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-327
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007


  • Animal model
  • Metastatic spinal tumor
  • Radiotherapy
  • Rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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