Brain and Spinal Tumors: Treatment

The team at HICCC develops an individualized treatment plan for each patient based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • type, location, and size of the tumor
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include (alone or in combination):

  • Surgery. Surgery may be the best option to treat brain and spinal tumors, not only to remove the growth itself but also to relieve the pressure it is putting on the brain, spine, or nerves.
  • Chemotherapy
  • If radiation treatment is recommended, a radiation oncologist will work with our radiation oncology team to create a course of treatment. At Columbia University treatment modalities available and most commonly used for this cancer. Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), or Gamma Knife are available at HICCC.
  • Steroids (to treat and prevent swelling especially in the brain)
  • Anti-seizure medication (to treat and prevent seizures associated with intracranial pressure)
  • Placement of a ventriculoperitoneal shunt (also called a VP shunt). This is a tube that is placed into the fluid filled spaces of the brain called ventricles. The other end of the tube is placed into the abdomen to help drain excess fluid that can build up in the brain and cause an increase in pressure in the brain.
  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Supportive care (to minimize the side effects of the tumor or treatment)
  • Rehabilitation (to regain lost motor skills and muscle strength; speech, physical, and occupational therapists may be involved in the healthcare team)
  • Antibiotics (to treat and prevent infections)
  • Continuous follow-up care (to manage disease, detect recurrence of the tumor, and to manage late effects of treatment).

Newer therapies that may be used to treat brain cancer include the following:

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery – a new technique that focuses high doses of radiation at the tumor site, while sparing the surrounding normal tissue, with the use of photon beams from a linear accelerator or cobalt x-rays.
  • Gene therapy – a special gene is added to a virus that is injected into the brain tumor. An antivirus drug is then given which kills the cancer cells that have been infected with the altered virus.