Bulky bony metastasis of the axial skeleton of a relative radioresistant tumor such as renal cell carcinoma is usually a problematic medical situation associated with significant morbidity. In the case of our patient the comorbidity was exacerbated by the presence of skin infiltration and ulceration caused by direct contiguous tumor invasion. A conventional approach would have been to treat with external beam irradiation and analgesics. Such an approach would lead to local failure soon, given the tumor bulk. The sequence of embolization followed by radiofrequency ablation caused extensive necrosis of the tumor bulk and creation of a large tissue deficit, which was at first considered of ominous nature, but as it appears heralded a favourable outcome. The significant tumor reduction thus achieved may have resulted in the increased efficacy of the subsequent therapies provided, namely external beam irradiation and further antiangiogenetic therapy. Of note, excellent wound healing with secondary intent proceeded over the subsequent year, without complications and in spite of antiangiogenetic therapy. It is conceivable however that the administration of subsequent therapy may have delayed the healing process, although without apparent untoward effects.
Therapeutic embolization of osseous metastases has been previously reported in small number of patients with a variety of tumors [3, 8]. This procedure has even been reported to result in a rapid resolution of neurological symptoms if they were present . In a report of five patients with renal cell carcinoma the majority of patients experienced significant relief of pain and improvement of their overall clinical condition which lasted for several months . In the case of our patient, it was believed that selective arterial embolization might have been inadequate to control the bulky tumor mass, not only because of its size, but also because of its resistance to pharmaceutical antiangiogenic manipulations. Therefore, the treatment plan included immediate post-embolization radiofrequency ablation (RFA). This technique is usually performed in patients with soft tissue metastases, mainly of the liver. In renal cell cancer RFA has been applied as an alternative to surgery for the definitive treatment of primary tumors . For the purpose of treating painful osseous metastases it has occasionally been used in combination with osteoplasty, again with considerable success [9, 10]. To our knowledge, the combination of arterial embolization followed by RFA has only been reported in two cases of non metastatic renal cell carcinoma for the treatment of the primary tumor when resection was not possible [7, 9]. Despite the immediate beneficial result, the location of the mass in the proximity of the spinal canal raised the concern of possible under-treatment of the medial part of the tumor. For that reason, external beam irradiation was added, at a point when the patient complained of increasing pain, without clear radiographic evidence of tumor progression. It is noteworthy that our complex therapeutic intervention resulted in the creation of a very large tumor deficit, which did not interfere with the patient's quality of life and gradually healed with secondary intent.
In conclusion, our case illustrates the usefulness of the sequence of localized treatment for the management of bulky osseous metastasis. Such a specialized treatment approach should be entertained in selected patients as it can yield long lasting favourable outcomes.