Pediatric Clival Chordoma: A Curable Disease that Conforms to Collins’ Law

Neurosurgery 82:652–660, 2018

Skull base chordomas in children are extremely rare. Their course, management, and outcome have not been defined.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the preeminent clinical and radiological features in a series of pediatric patients with skull base chordomas and analyze the outcome of a cohort who underwent uniform treatment. We emphasize predictors of overall survival and progression-free survival, which aligns with Collins’ law for embryonal tumors.

METHODS: Thirty-one patients with a mean age of 10.7 yr (range 0.8-22) harboring skull base chordomas were evaluated. We retrospectively analyzed the outcomes and prognostic factors for 18 patients treated by the senior author, with uniform management of surgery with the aim of gross total resection and adjuvant proton-beam radiotherapy. Mean follow-up was 119.2 mo (range 8-263).

RESULTS: Abducens nerve palsy was the most common presenting symptom. Imaging disclosed large tumors that often involve multiple anatomical compartments. Patients undergoing gross total resection had significantly increased progression-free survival (P = .02) and overall survival (P = .05) compared with those having subtotal resection. Those who lived through the period of risk for recurrence without disease progression had a higher probability of living entirely free of progression (P = .03; odds ratio = 16.0). Age, sex, and histopathological variant did not yield statistical significance in survival.

CONCLUSION: Long-term overall and progression-free survival in children harboring skull base chordomas can be achieved with gross surgical resection and proton-beam radiotherapy, despite an advanced stage at presentation. Collins’ law does apply to pediatric skull base chordomas, and children with this disease have a high hope for cure.