Sacral chordoma: 40-Year experience at a major cancer center

Julie E. York, Adriana Kaczaraj, Dima Abi-Said, Gregory N. Fuller, John M. Skibber, Nora A. Janjan, Ziya L. Gokaslan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

273 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Sacral chordomas are relatively rare, locally invasive, malignant neoplasms. Despite surgical resection, adjuvant radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, recurrence is common. This study reviews our experience during the last 40 years at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, to determine the effects of various treatment methods on the overall course of this disease process. METHODS: A retrospective study was performed. From 1954 to 1994, 27 patients with sacral chordomas were evaluated at our institution. RESULTS: There were 19 male and 8 female patients, with a mean age of 56 years (range, 27-80 yr). All except one of the patients presented with pain, and 17 of 27 showed evidence of autonomic dysfunction at initial presentation. Based on microscopic examination of surgical specimen margins, surgical procedures were categorized as either radical resection or subtotal excision. All patients underwent at least one surgical procedure, for a total of 67 procedures (28 radical resections and 39 subtotal excisions). Twelve patients underwent one operation, whereas nine underwent two procedures and six underwent more than two operations (range, 3-16 operations). Radiation therapy was used in conjunction with 13 of the 67 surgical procedures. The median Kaplan-Meier estimate of the overall survival time for the entire group was 7.38 years (range, 4 mo to 34 yr). Tumors recurred after 47 of the 67 procedures. The overall disease-free interval for patients undergoing radical resection was 2.27 years for each procedure, compared with 8 months for each procedure for patients treated with subtotal excision (log-rank test for the inequality between the two curves, 19.58; P < 0.0001). The addition of radiation therapy prolonged the disease-free interval for patients undergoing subtotal resection (2.12 yr versus 8 mo; log-rank test for the inequality between the two curves, 5.82; P < 0.02). CONCLUSION: Our results suggest frequent recurrences in the majority of patients with chordomas. Radical resection is associated with a significantly longer disease-free interval, compared with subtotal removal of the tumor. Addition of radiation after subtotal resection improves the disease-free interval, although radiation therapy can generally be used only once. Based on these findings, we think that, whenever possible, radical resection should be the treatment of choice for sacral chordomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-80
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Chordoma
  • Sacral tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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