Although brain and spine tumors represent 20% of all solid tumors, there is nothing routine about them. Each patient requires personalized care depending on the biology of his or her particular tumor. At the Gill Center, our Brain Tumor Program provides patients with a multidisciplinary approach to personalized care, a depth of expertise and a commitment to research.
We treat 80 to 100 new patients a year. Each week, new patients and those with progressive tumors are presented at a weekly tumor board. A core strength of our program, the board works together to confirm diagnoses and develop comprehensive treatment plans. This team comprises oncologists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, pathologists and neuro-radiologists, rounded out by ophthalmologists, endocrinologists, a physician assistant, nurses, child life specialists, psychologists and physical, speech and occupational therapists.
The Gill Center at Children’s Health offers the most innovative pediatric brain tumor treatment available in the country. Beyond the well-practiced applications of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, expect us to employ the most advanced technologies and techniques available. Two examples include:
In partnership with UT Southwestern’s Moncrief Radiation Oncology Center, the Gill Center offers stereotactic radiosurgery, or CyberKnife surgery. Using a linear accelerator mounted on a robotic arm, the CyberKnife focuses multiple beams of radiation into the tumor. The minimally invasive treatment aggressively treats primary and metastatic brain tumors with high doses of radiation without increasing risk to surrounding brain tissues.
Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is usually a devastating prognosis. We’re working to change that. In partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital, we biopsy these tumors to identify molecular abnormalities that may become targets for treatment. This personalized approach to treating DIPG is new, beginning only in 2011, and represents a paradigm shift in treatment protocol.
We pursue clinical research with oncologists, surgeons and pathologists to better understand and treat patients with medulloblastoma. For example, in a November 2012 study (Metabolism of [U-13 C] glucose in human brain tumors in vivo), UT Southwestern researchers found that metabolic reprogramming contributes to brain tumor growth in adults. We’re leveraging this research to study glucose metabolism in pediatric brain tumors. Funded with a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas grant, the study began in 2013 with the goal of creating new methods of targeting brain tumors.