Clinical utility of brain biopsy for presumed CNS relapse of systemic lymphoma

J Neurosurg. 2021 Jul 2:1-10. doi: 10.3171/2020.12.JNS202517. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the frequency with which brain biopsy for presumed CNS relapse of systemic hematological malignancies yields new, actionable diagnostic information. Hematological malignancies represent a disparate group of genetic and histopathological disorders. Proclivity for brain involvement is dependent on the unique entity and may occur synchronously or metasynchronously with the systemic lesion. Diffuse large B-cell lymphomas (DLBCLs) have a high propensity for brain involvement. Patients in remission from systemic DLBCL may present with a lesion suspicious for brain relapse. These patients often undergo brain biopsy. The authors’ a priori hypothesis was that brain biopsy in patients with a history of systemic DLBCL and a new brain MRI lesion would have lower diagnostic utility compared with patients with non-DLBCL systemic malignancies.

METHODS: The authors performed a retrospective review of patients who underwent brain biopsy between 2000 and 2019. Inclusion criteria were patients ≥ 18 years of age with a prior systemic hematological malignancy in remission presenting with a new brain MRI lesion concerning for CNS relapse. Patients with a history of any CNS neoplasms, demyelinating disorders, or active systemic disease were excluded. The main outcome was the proportion of patients with a distinct histopathological brain diagnosis compared with the systemic malignancy. The authors secondarily assessed overall survival, procedure-related morbidity, and 30-day mortality.

RESULTS: Sixty patients met inclusion criteria (40 males and 20 females); the median age at brain biopsy was 67 years (range 23-88 years). The median follow-up was 8.5 months (range 0.1-231 months). Thirty-nine (65.0%) patients had DLBCL and 21 (35%) had non-DLBCL malignancies. Thirty-five of 36 (97.2%) patients with prior systemic DLBCL and a diagnostic biopsy had histopathological confirmation of the original systemic disease versus 0 of 21 patients with non-DLBCL systemic malignancies (p < 0.001). Morbidity and 30-day mortality were 8.3% and 10.0%, respectively; 2 of 6 30-day mortalities were directly attributable to the biopsy. The median overall survival following brain biopsy was 10.8 months.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with a history of systemic DLBCL and presumed CNS relapse gained minimal clinical benefit from brain biopsy but were at high risk of morbidity and mortality. In patients with a history of non-DLBCL systemic malignancies, brain biopsy remained critical given the high likelihood for discovery of distinct diagnostic entities. It was determined that patients with a prior systemic DLBCL and presumed brain relapse should likely receive empirical therapy obviating treatment delay and the risks of brain biopsy.

PMID:34214988 | DOI:10.3171/2020.12.JNS202517