The University of Chicago Medicine Brain Tumor Center offers the latest treatment options for patients with cancerous or non-cancerous tumors of the brain and spinal cord.
Your physician will discuss with you your best treatment options, taking into consideration the location, size, growth and type of tumor you have. You may also wish to have physicians from our brain and spine tumor board review your individual case. This board meets regularly to tap the expertise of our leading doctors in determining the most effective approaches to managing your tumor, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
These high-precision surgical techniques and tools enable our neurosurgeons to operate on many tumors that were previously considered inoperable:
- Minimally invasive neurosurgery offers shorter recovery times and fewer complications than traditional surgery. For example, surgeons may use endoscopic techniques — operating through a small incision using thin tubes to preserve critical delicate tissues while providing more direct access to tumors.
- Image-guided minimally invasive laser ablation can destroy tumors while preserving surrounding brain tissue.
- Neuro-navigation tools are used like a GPS for the brain, allowing greater accuracy when removing abnormal tissue and improving preservation of healthy tissue.
- Skull base surgical techniques enable our neurosurgeons to operate on tumors located near the base of the skull without destroying vital brain and brain-stem functions.
- The full range of conventional and complex open skull and spine surgeries involving microsurgical techniques to treat tumors.
Even when a cancerous brain or spine tumor is removed through surgery, radiation therapy is often recommended to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Radiation destroys tumor cells; for non-cancerous tumors, radiation therapy may be used to slow or halt growth or to treat recurring tumors.
Radiation can be used alone or with other types of treatment like surgery or chemotherapy.
University of Chicago Medicine patients with brain and spine tumors have access to sophisticated radiation treatment technologies, including:
Chemotherapy is a type of treatment in which medication is delivered through your bloodstream to destroy and prevent the growth, spread or recurrence of cancer. You may receive a single medicine or a combination, and this may be used alone or with surgery or radiation therapy. Although clinical trial research is expanding the use of chemotherapy in treating brain tumors, it’s still only effective on a limited number of them. Temozolomide is the most common drug used to fight brain tumors.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles; you may receive your therapy by injection, by pill or through small wafers implanted in your brain.
If the type of brain tumor you have can be treated with chemotherapy, your UChicago Medicine doctor will analyze your tumor’s cells to determine whether a particular drug may be more effective, based on the tumor’s molecular material. New chemotherapies are also in development.
Targeted therapy uses medicine to either target the parts of cancer cells that make them unlike normal cells or target other cells that help tumors grow. Targeted therapy can help when other treatments aren’t working; it may also have less-severe side effects than standard chemotherapy. There are currently two targeted therapies to treat brain tumors:
- Bevacizumab is a lab-made version of an immune protein. This medicine targets VEGF, a protein that normally helps tumors create the new blood vessels they need to keep growing. Blocking VEGF helps limit the size of the tumor. When added to chemotherapy, this medicine can help slow the growth of some types of tumors. It is often used for glioblastoma.
- Everolimus targets a protein known as mTOR which normally helps cells grow and make new cells. Everolimus can help treat a tumor known as subependymal giant cell astrocytoma (SEGA) if it can’t be treated with surgery.