Brain cancer is the abnormal growth of tissue in the brain. Brain cancer can either originate in the brain itself (primary brain tumor) or come from another part of the body and travel to the brain (metastatic or secondary tumor). Depending on the type of tumor, brain cancer may be classified as either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Brain cancer treatment depends on the patient's age and overall health, the extent of the disease, and the patient's tolerance for medications as well as personal preferences. Treatment options include:
Surgery, usually the first step in brain cancer treatment, is done with the goal of removing as much of the tumor as possible while maintaining neurological function; a biopsy may be done first to determine the type of brain cancer
Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be used to kill brain cancer cells and shrink tumors
Stereotactic radiotherapy is an advanced technique that uses highly focused x-ray beams to administer a large dose of radiation directly at tumor cells
Medications may include steroids to treat and prevent swelling of brain tissue, anti-seizure medication to treat and prevent seizures, and antibiotics to prevent and treat infection
Targeted therapy refers to newer drugs that target specific cellular pathways of brain tumor growth and the blood vessels that support them
Shunt placement involves inserting a long, thin tube to draw excess fluid from the brain
Some newer approaches for brain cancer treatment include chemotherapy wafers, in which drug-filled wafers are inserted directly into the area of the brain tumor during surgery, and electric field treatments in which electrodes are placed along the scalp to deliver a mild electric current that may affect tumor cells more than normal brain cells. Gene therapy is an experimental treatment that is being evaluated as an option for brain cancer treatment.
The Brain Tumor Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital offers compassionate and state-of-the-art brain cancer treatment for patients with primary and metastatic brain tumors as well as neurologic complications of brain cancer.
Brigham and Women's Hospital: comprehensive brain cancer treatment
At the Brain Tumor Center, our Boston neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, social workers, and nurse practitioners work closely together to ensure that every patient receives individualized brain cancer treatment for their specific type of brain cancer. The Center performs many complex surgeries, including skull base surgery for tumors affecting the cranial base, pituitary tumor surgery, and various minimally invasive procedures to treat patients with brain cancer.
Clinical research into brain cancer treatment
Because Brigham and Women's Hospital is a major research institution, patients may have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials where some of the most advanced forms of brain cancer treatment are being evaluated, including glioblastoma treatment. Our researchers are developing new, innovative techniques that optimize the use of technology, radiation, gene therapy and biological therapies to treat brain cancers.