Prognostic factors among patients with brain metastases from cancer of unknown primary site

C. Simões Padilla, V. K. Y. Ho, I. H. van der Strate, W. P. J. Leenders, F. Y. F. L. de Vos, S. E. M. Veldhuijzen van Zanten, C. Loef

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Purpose: Cancers of an unknown primary site (CUPs) have a dismal prognosis, and the situation is even worse for CUPs patients with brain metastases (BM-CUPs). This study aims to give better insight into the occurrence and survival of BM-CUPs patients. Methods: Cases were selected from the Netherlands Cancer Registry (1,430 BM-CUPs/17,140 CUPs). Baseline characteristics between CUPs patients with and without BM were tested using chi-square tests and Mann–Whitney U tests. Patients’ overall survival (OS) times were estimated by the Kaplan–Meier method and prognostic factors on OS was assessed using Cox proportional hazards regression analyses. Results: The proportion of BM-CUPs patients among CUPs increased from 8% in 2009–2010 to 10% in 2017–2018 (p < 0.001). Most patients presented with multiple brain lesions (53%). Survival of BM-CUPs improved over time: one-year OS increased from 10% for patients diagnosed in 2009–2010 to 17% (2017- 2018) (p < 0.01), and median survival times increased from 1.8 months to 2.2 months. Independent predictors of poor survival were multiple (HR 1.25; p < 0.01) or unknown (HR 1.48; p < 0.01) locations of BM, unknown/poorly/undifferentiated carcinoma histology (HR 1.53; p < 0.01), or clinical symptoms of BM (HR 1.74; p < 0.01), accompanying liver metastasis (HR 1.43; p < 0.01) and more than one metastatic site outside the brain compared to none (HR 1.52; p < 0.01). Conclusion: The incidence of patients with BM-CUPs is steadily increasing over time and overall prognosis remains dismal. Our results, however, show distinct patient subgroups that exhibit comparatively better outcomes, and more predictors may likely still be identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-655
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuro-Oncology
Issue number3
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Brain metastases
  • CUP
  • Cancer
  • Survival
  • The Netherlands
  • Unknown primary

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