Treatment of Brain and Spinal Tumors
Because of their complexity, brain and spinal tumors are best treated using a multidisciplinary team approach. Treatment can involve surgery, radiation therapy, systemic therapy such as chemotherapy - or any combination of these. While early treatment can improve the chances of a good outcome, treatment options and prognosis are based on tumor type, the location and size of the tumor, tumor grade (how abnormal the cells are), as well as the patient’s age, medical history, and general health. The Maimonides Cancer Center offers leading edge treatment approaches and all of our specialists work closely together to develop a unified treatment plan that incorporates the best thinking of the entire team.
Depending on the type of tumor, our specialists at Maimonides will determine the most effective and innovative treatment, including comprehensive medical, radiation and surgical services. Radiation therapy is commonly used to manage some gliomas. Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a non-invasive procedure for low-grade and high-grade gliomas and astrocytomas. Chemotherapy drugs may be used before or after surgery to remove the tumors. Finally, targeted drugs may be used to help block the spread of a tumor.
Chemotherapy may be used along with surgery or radiation treatment for brain tumors. While many chemotherapy drugs have limited effectiveness due to the blood-brain barrier—the tight junctions in the brain capillaries that prevent drugs from getting from the bloodstream to the brain—research is underway to discover new ways to get chemotherapy to the brain tumor.
Both highly skilled and highly compassionate, our renowned medical oncology team offers our patients the benefit of their specialized knowledge and expert treatment of brain tumors. Our medical oncologists are specialists at matching the disease with the best systemic therapies, which include chemotherapies and the latest targeted therapies.
Radiation therapy may be used to treat certain brain and spinal tumors, as the primary treatment, as a follow-up after surgery, or in combination with chemotherapy, to kill any remaining tumor cells. At the Maimonides Cancer Center, our dedicated radiation oncologists and medical physicists and therapists are committed to providing every patient with care that is state-of-the-art, evidence-based, and individualized for each patient.
The Maimonides Cancer Center features the most sophisticated treatment planning equipment and the most up-to-date technology available for radiation delivery, including Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), 3-Dimensional Conformal Radiotherapy (3D-CRT), Stereotactic Radiosurgery, and Whole Brain Radiation Therapy. All of these advanced therapies are delivered in a radiation therapy unit that has received recognition as one of the safest and most accurate units in the country
All of our radiation treatments for brain and spinal tumors are image-guided. By utilizing advanced imaging technology to create high-quality three-dimensional images, our radiation oncologists can pinpoint the exact size, location, and coordinates of the tumor, and then ensure that the radiation beams precisely target the tumor and spare the normal tissue any unnecessary toxicity.
Conventional radiation therapy treatment options for brain tumors include:
- External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily outpatient treatments over several weeks to accurately deliver radiation to the brain. Radiation treatment is often given after surgery and sometimes it is given instead of surgery.
- Brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy works by placing radioactive sources in or just near a tumor. During brachytherapy, a tube or balloon called a catheter will be inserted into the brain. The radiation will then be carried to the tumor using this catheter. The radioactive source will then be left in place from several hours to several days to kill the tumor cells. In some cases, the radiation is permanently placed directly into the tumor or the area where the tumor was before surgery.
Most primary brain tumor patients undergo surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. While some tumors may be completely removed, other tumors might have entered the surrounding brain tissue or are located in highly sensitive areas. In these cases, our neurosurgeons and pediatric neurosurgeons have the expertise and technology necessary to remove as much of the tumor as safely possible in order to reduce the tumor’s size and perhaps decrease pressure and ease symptoms.
In our state-of-the-art surgical procedure suite, we offer a full range of the latest surgical techniques and procedures to treat patients, including the most advanced surgical navigation system for intraoperative guidance. Our surgeons utilize minimally invasive surgical techniques whenever possible to decrease scars, pain, and the time spent in the hospital.