header image

Neurosurgical Oncology

The Neurosurgical Oncology Center of Excellence features two primary divisions: Adult Neurosurgical Oncology and Pediatric Neurosurgical Oncology.

Our program includes leading neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, neuropathologists, researchers, rehabilitation experts, nurses and support staff. This multidisciplinary team delivers compassionate and sophisticated care and uses the latest technologies to treat patients with tumors of the brain, spine and skull base.

[Read about Immunotherapy in the 2014 UPMC CancerCenter/University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Annual Report.]

Adult Neurosurgical Oncology Program

UPMC’s Adult Neurosurgical Oncology division is internationally recognized as a leader in the treatment of patients - with both cancerous and benign tumors of the brain and spine. Our experts are skilled in the full array of treatments and technologies, and have been at the forefront in developing and advancing minimally invasive surgical techniques, stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), and traditional surgical approaches.

Patients with both primary and metastatic brain and spine tumors are seen at Hillman Cancer Center in our Brain Cancer Specialty Care Center.

The center brings together specialists from neuro-oncology, neurosurgery, and radiation oncology to streamline patient care. The group holds a weekly tumor board to review patient cases and formulate care management recommendations.

Similarly, there is a weekly skull base tumor board with involvement from adult and pediatric neurosurgery, otolaryngology/head and neck cancer specialists, neuro-ophthalmology, and radiology.

Minimally Invasive and Traditional Techniques

UPMC experts have experience with a comprehensive array of both traditional and minimally invasive neurosurgical procedures. Some of our highly specialized techniques include:

Neuroendoport® Surgery

Neuroendoport® surgery is a minimally invasive technique for removing brain tumors using an endoscope through a small clear tube, called the Neuroendoport®. This tube, or port, allows doctors to access deep-seated tumors through a smaller opening in the lining of the brain than would be used in traditional brain surgery.

Program Highlights:

  • Suitable for tumors within the substance of the brain (the parenchyma), tumors within the fluid-filled spaces of the brain (the ventricles), metastases from cancer, and gliomas.
  • Neuroendoport surgery offers patients a number of benefits that may improve their quality of life, including minimal scarring, fewer side effects and complications, and faster recovery times than with traditional surgery.

Awake Craniotomy

During an awake craniotomy, our neurosurgeons use sophisticated brain mapping technology to locate motor and speech regions prior to tumor removal, so they can avoid these sensitive areas during surgery. The patient is kept awake throughout the procedure so the neurosurgical team can map motor and speech areas prior to the tumor removal. This approach allows neurosurgeons to remove a greater portion of the tumor, since they are able to monitor critical functions during the operation, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA)

EEA is an innovative surgical technique used to remove benign and cancerous brain tumors that are located at the skull base. EEA uses the nose and sinuses as natural corridors to access tumors and lesions in critical areas at the base of the skull or top of the spine and allows surgeons to treat many hard-to-reach tumors, even those once considered "inoperable," without disturbing the face or skull.

Advanced Imaging Modalities

Our neurosurgeons use sophisticated high-definition fiber tracking (HDFT) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) to view the detailed wiring and function of the patient’s brain to plan the most effective and least damaging pathways to remove brain tumors. '

Stereotactic Radiosurgery

For more than two decades, UPMC has been providing state-of-the-art stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) treatment for tumors of the brain and spine. Our neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists are recognized worldwide for our experience with the Gamma Knife® and CyberKnife® radiation delivery platforms for brain lesions. We also offer treatment using the TrueBeam® STx and Trilogy platforms for spine lesions.

CyberKnife M6

Utilizing the latest technology, the CyberKnife M6 is an image-guided stereotactic radiosurgery delivery system that does not require the use of a head frame for cranial radiosurgery. It has the ability to deliver fractionated radiosurgical treatments for larger lesions, and also provide radiosurgery for spinal lesions.

Program Highlights:

  • Consistently ranked as a top treatment center in the United States and internationally
  • Performed more than 7,933 procedures

Gamma Knife

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a stereotactic procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain.

With no surgical incision required, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is especially useful when conventional surgical procedures pose a high risk for patients.

Program Highlights:

  • Nation’s leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures
  • Installed the first North American Gamma Knife in 1987
  • Performed more than 12,500 procedures

Trilogy

Trilogy is an advanced linear accelerator and radiosurgery treatment system that allows clinicians to target tumors in difficult or hard to reach areas. Using image-guided technology, clinicians are able to monitor the movement of the tumor throughout the treatment cycle, delivering high doses of highly accurate targeted radiation beams directly the tumor, helping to spare healthy surrounding tissue.

TrueBeam® STx with Novalis

TrueBeam is one of the most advanced linear accelerators and radiosurgery treatment systems that allow clinicians to target tumors in difficult or hard to reach areas. Utilizing sophisticated imaging technology called ExacTrac® to capture images of the tumor, the TrueBeam platform accounts for natural tumor movement using the captured images to confirm that the radiation beams are always targeting the tumor.

Research and Clinical Trials

UPMC Adult Neurosurgical Oncology, in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is renowned for adult brain and spinal tumor research and clinical trials.

Our program is actively investigating:

  • Glioma and glioblastoma immunotherapy
  • Pharmacological and gene-therapeutic strategies
  • Use of oncolytic viruses
  • New radiation and imaging modalities

Our team is also actively studying other neurological complications of systemic cancer and its treatment, including stroke, neurobehavioral disorders, neurological complications of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, and paraneoplastic neurological syndromes, in collaboration with medical neuro-oncologists Frank Lieberman, MD, and Jan Drappatz, MD.

Pediatric Neurosurgical Oncology

UPMC Pediatric Neurosurgical Oncology is a leading research program funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, including the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Cancer Institute.

Our program has a collaborative relationship with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Current clinical trials are investigating:

  • Glioma vaccines
  • Ependymoma vaccines
  • Interferon-based treatments
  • Chemotherapy-based treatments

To learn more about our current research and clinical protocols, please visit the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh's Brain and CNS Cancers Clinical Studies page.

Physician Resources

Want to learn more about our minimally invasive neurosurgical approaches and SRS Program? UPMC Physician Resources brings world-class physicians and free educational opportunities to your computer. Visit the UPMC Physician Services website to learn new information while watching CME-accredited videos in the convenience of your home or office.