Treating Metastatic Brain Tumors

There are several factors physicians at the Metastatic Brain Tumor Program take into consideration when developing a treatment plan for metastatic brain tumors.  In addition to the history of the primary cancer and the patient’s response to treatment, the following are taken into consideration:

  • Age and health of the patient
  • Patient’s symptoms
  • Location, type and number of tumors

The multidisciplinary team at the Metastatic Brain Tumor Program meets weekly to discuss each patient’s situation to develop their individualized and optimal treatment plan.   The treatment may include surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, alone or in combination.

After treatment, physicians will follow up with various scans and tests to help determine what additional treatment may be necessary. Patient support is offered to patients and their families.

Surgery

The goal of surgery is to completely remove as much of the tumor(s) as safely possible and to relieve pressure on the brain caused by the tumor.  Surgery enables physicians to act quickly, particularly if there are only one or two small lesions.

The neurosurgeons at the Metastatic Brain Tumor Program aim to retain and, in many cases, improve neurological function while completely resecting the metastatic brain tumor.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Stereotactic radiosurgery, also known as Gamma Knife surgery, is a noninvasive, nonsurgical alternative to traditional treatments, designed for brain lesions smaller than four centimeters. Candidates for this procedure include patients who have lesions previously thought to be inoperable or inaccessible, a high risk for general surgery, of advanced age and those unable to participate in multiple-session treatment.

Click here to learn more about stereotactic radiosurgery, performed through Cedars-Sinai’s Gamma Knife Program.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is complex and tailored specifically to the needs of each patient.  Radiation therapy may be used after surgery to prevent tumors from spreading to other areas of the brain or it may be used instead of surgery.

The Metastatic Brain Tumor Program has access to the latest radiation therapies.  The type of therapy a patient receives depends on the type of cancer, its stage and where it is located.
Click here for a complete list of the radiation therapies offered Cedars-Sinai.

Chemotherapy

Traditional chemotherapy drugs can’t cross the blood-brain tumor barrier which prevents blood from entering the brain and effectively prevents the delivery of anti-cancer drugs to the tumor.  Therefore, chemotherapy is not used to reduce or eliminate metastasized brain tumors but rather to prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells to other areas of the body.

Chemotherapy often causes side effects for patients so other medications may be used to help treat those symptoms.  Patients should keep their physician informed about their reaction to their chemotherapy and, of course, any new symptoms.

New chemotherapy drugs are being developed all the time and research is ongoing to find a way to overcome the blood-brain barrier.  We are developing several strategies to improve drug delivery into metastatic brain tumors and a new type of therapy called targeted therapy which uses drugs aimed at specific biochemical pathways.

Click here to learn more about chemotherapy treatments at Cedars-Sinai.  

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