Background: Early palliative/pre-emptive intervention improves clinical outcomes and quality of life for patients with metastatic cancer. A previous signal-seeking randomized controlled trial (RCT) demonstrated that early upfront radiotherapy to asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic high-risk osseous metastases led to reduction in skeletal-related events (SREs), a benefit driven primarily by subgroup of high-risk spine metastasis. The current RCT aims to determine whether early palliative/pre-emptive radiotherapy in patients with high-risk, asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic spine metastases will lead to fewer SREs within 1 year.

Methods: This is a single-center, parallel-arm, in-progress RCT in adults (≥ 18 years) with ECOG performance status 0-2 and asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic (not requiring opioids) high-risk spine metastases from histologically confirmed solid tumor malignancies with > 5 sites of metastatic disease on cross-sectional imaging. High-risk spine metastases are defined by the following: (a) bulkiest disease sites ≥ 2 cm; (b) junctional disease (occiput to C2, C7-T1, T12-L2, L5-S1); (c) posterior element involvement; or (d) vertebral body compression deformity > 50%. Patients are randomized 1:1 to receive either standard-of-care systemic therapy (arm 1) or upfront, early radiotherapy to ≤ 5 high-risk spine lesions plus standard-of-care systemic therapy (arm 2), in the form of 20-30 Gy of radiation in 2-10 fractions. The primary endpoint is SRE, a composite outcome including spinal fracture, spinal cord compression, need for palliative radiotherapy, interventional procedures, or spinal surgery. Secondary endpoints include (1) surrogates of health care cost, including the number and duration of SRE-related hospitalizations; (2) overall survival; (3) pain-free survival; and (4) quality of life. Study instruments will be captured pre-treatment, at baseline, during treatment, and at 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months post-treatment. The trial aims to accrue 74 patients over 2 years to achieve > 80% power in detecting difference using two-sample proportion test with alpha < 0.05.

Discussion: The results of this RCT will demonstrate the value, if any, of early radiotherapy for high-risk spine metastases. The trial has received IRB approval, funding, and prospective registration (NCT05534321) and has been open to accrual since August 19, 2022. If positive, the trial will expand the scope and utility of spine radiotherapy.

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