Research & Clinical Trials for Brain and Spine Tumor Treatment

Innovative Software for Planning Safer Brain Surgery

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin—including two members of the Brain and Spine Tumor Program—have developed a new software system that helps physicians plan safer tumor surgeries. The system is known as Prism, and patients at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin were the first in the world to benefit from this new imaging tool.

Brain surgery can lead to complications such as paralysis or impeded speech. To reduce the risk of these complications, physicians use a variety of diagnostic imaging technologies to map critical brain structures before surgery. 

The Prism system enhances the surgical planning process by merging separate diagnostic images into a single unified view. By integrating the various imaging sources, Prism helps surgeons understand complex spatial relationships and more easily identify brain structures that need to be avoided. That helps them create surgical plans with the best chance of preserving brain function and patient ability.

Most Spinal Cord Tumor Operations in State

Tumors of the spinal cord are very rare, so it is important for patients with a spinal cord tumor to receive care from physicians who are experienced in treating these malignancies. Shekar Kurpad, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin neurosurgeon, has extensive experience using microsurgical techniques and neurophysiological monitoring to operate on tumors that abut the spinal cord or are growing within the cord tissue itself.

Tumor Board: Coordinated Cancer Care

The entire Brain and Spine Tumor Program team meets every week to discuss patients and monitor results. During these tumor board meetings, neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, psychologists and others use their collective expertise to develop individualized treatment plans for patients with brain and spine tumors. Group evaluation and planning is especially important for patients with recurring cancer. Our multidisciplinary approach ensures that every treatment option is considered for every patient.

Second Opinions for Brain and Spine Tumor Patients

When a person is diagnosed with a brain or spine tumor, it is reasonable to seek a second opinion. Many patients come to the Brain and Spine Tumor Program for additional perspective on their disease and treatment:

  • A concurring opinion gives patients the confidence that they are pursuing the right course of action.
  • Getting a second opinion can open up new treatment options, including potential participation in a clinical trial.

Many patients choose to consult with physicians at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin and then receive care closer to home. The physicians in the Brain and Spine Tumor Program frequently work with providers in other organizations to help ensure patients have the most effective treatment plan.

Research Leadership

Physicians in the Brain and Spine Tumor Program are actively involved in research to develop safer, more effective treatments for neurological cancers.

Kathleen Schmainda, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin biomedical engineer and medical physicist, is leading the development of several groundbreaking uses of MRI in brain imaging. Her work with perfusion MRI (which measures blood flow within the brain) is giving physicians a new way to monitor patients on Avastin, a drug that inhibits the development of new tumor blood vessels. She is also developing ways to use diffusion MRI (which measures the movement of water within brain tissue) to detect the presence of cancer cells that are missed by standard imaging techniques.

Christopher Schultz, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin radiation oncologist, is leading the development of a new technique for treating recurrent brain tumors with radiation therapy. Pulsed low-dose-rate radiation therapy damages tumor cells, but is largely non-toxic to healthy tissue. (To learn more, see Radiation Therapy.)

David Sabsevitz, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin neuropsychologist, is conducting ongoing research on how brain tumor treatment affects patient cognition, including changes in thinking, emotions and behavior. The goal is to understand the risk factors for cognitive impairment so that physicians can take steps to guard patient quality of life throughout illness and treatment. 

Wade Mueller, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin neurosurgeon, is leading an effort to build a brain tumor tissue bank as a resource for studying the characteristics of individual tumors. The objective is to gain insight into why tumors develop and spread and to help researchers design more targeted therapies for individual tumor types. 

The Brain and Spine Tumor Program is actively involved in clinical trials of new drugs and other therapies. These trials give many patients access to advanced treatments.

The physicians in the Brain and Spine Tumor Program regularly publish their research in academic journals and present their findings at national and international neuro-oncology conferences.

Appointments

For brain and spine tumor treatment:

  • 414-805-0505
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Locations

Clinical Cancer Center, Froedtert Hospital 9200 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

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