Neoplastic meningitis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sujit Routray, M.D. [2]

Synonyms and Keywords: NM; Carcinomatous meningitis; Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis; LC; Neoplastic arachnoiditis; Malignant meningitis; Leptomeningeal neoplasia, Meningeal carcinomatosis; Meningeosis neoplastica; Meningitis carcinomatosa; Leptomeningeal metastasis; Leptomeningeal metastases; Carcinomatous meningitis; Subarachnoid space metastasis; Subarachnoid space metastases

Overview

  • Neoplastic meningitis is a secondary cancer of the subarachnoid space, meninges and pia matter from a primary tumor source. It could be from a distant metastasis or from a primary brain tumor. Most commonly documented primary distant source is beast cancer. Signs and symptoms vary widely depending on the site of the brain or spinal cord involved and is not necessarily limited to signs of meningeal irritation. Neoplastic meningitis have a very poor prognosis with survival limited to 4 - 6 weeks if left untreated and 2 - 6 months with palliative management[1]. Treatment if palliative and is aimed at preventing and reducing neurological deficits and extending survival with good quality of life. Treatment is composed of any or all of the three components: radiotherapy, intraventricular or intrathecal chemotherapy and systemic radiotherapy. [3]

Historical Perspective

Classification

Pathophysiology

  • The pathophysiology of neoplastic meningitis involves spread of cancer cells to the meninges and subarachnoid space. The location could be the brain or the spinal cord. It could be from a distant source or from a primary CNS tumor (drop metastasis).
  • Cancer from a distant source enter the CSF by means of the following:[4]
    • Hematogenous Spread from a distant primary tumor site - cancer cells produce enzymes that allows them to microscopically invade blood vessels to reach the subarachnoid space through the systemic arterial circulation or by the Batsons venous plexus.
    • Invasion from a primary brain tumor to the meninges - when cancer cells lodge into small arteries causing local ischemia and blood vessel damage leading to spillage of neoplastic cells to the Virchow-Robin spaces thereby providing access to the subarachnoid space.
    • Infiltration to the spinal cord - Cancer cells gain access to the subarachnoid space through this route via the perivascular tissues the surround the blood vessels at the brain entrance. Direct infiltration of the spinal nerve roots (dorsal and ventral) has also been documented.
    • Cancer spread a neural pathways to reach the meninges - The CSF carries cancer cells through the brain tracts. This occurs mostly in tumors of the head and neck.[5]
    • Iatrogenic - from surgical procedures involving removal of a primary brain tumor

Causes

  • Neoplastic meningitis is a secondary cancer caused by the spread of tumor cells into the meninges and subarachnoid space from a primary source. Most common sources documented are breast, lung, melanoma and hematologic cancers mostly acute lymphocytic leukemia[2]. Cancers not previously thought to be predisposed to neoplastic meningitis but now has documented cases are gastric, prostate, ovarian, cervical and endometrial. [6]

Differentiating Neoplastic Meningitis from other Diseases

Epidemiology and Demographics

Risk Factors

Screening

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis

Diagnosis

Staging | History and Symptoms | Physical Examination | Laboratory Findings | CT | MRI | Other Imaging Findings | Other Diagnostic Studies

Treatment

Medical Therapy | Surgery | Prevention | Cost-Effectiveness of Therapy | Future or Investigational Therapies

Case Studies

Case #1

  1. Fields, Margaret (May–Jun 2013). "How to Recognize and Treat Neoplastic Meningitis". Journal of the Advanced Practitioner in Onchology. 4(3): 155–160.
  2. Suresh, Pooja (October 19, 2018). "Neoplastic meningitis: A study from a Tertiary Care Hospital from coastal India". Journal of Cytology. 35: 255–259.

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