Neurosurgical Oncology Program

The University of Pittsburgh’s Neurosurgical Oncology 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. Education, support and counseling for family members are important parts of the program.

The program includes subspecialized neurosurgical oncologists providing the best treatments available for patients with both benign and malignant tumors of the brain and spine. The program—directed by Pascal O. Zinn, MD, PhD, along with Kalil G. Abdullah, MD, and Costas G. Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD—is dedicated to discovering novel and effective therapies for these diseases and is a leading center for surgically driven clinical trials and translational bench-to-bedside trials based on scientific breakthroughs developed in our laboratories.

Our Neurosurgical Oncology Program is one of the most robust and innovative in the world, with one of the largest volumes of patients treated on an annual basis. The program has been a leader in the implementation of cutting-edge technologies such as stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) using the Gamma Knife (Center for Image-Guided Neurosurgery), CyberKnife, and image-guided tumor resection using intraoperative CT. Other technologies, including use of a robotic-assisted surgical exoscope, MR-guided laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT), and fluorescence-guided surgery are available. The use of advanced imaging modalities, such as high-definition white matter fiber tract imaging and magnetoencephalography, has also facilitated better outcomes for selected patients with tumors. In addition, awake craniotomy techniques with brain mapping, and fluorescent-guided brain tumor resection are routinely used to maximize safe removal of brain tumors at the cancer center.

As an international referral program for both adult and pediatric brain tumors, the neurosurgical oncology program ranks among the top programs in the nation. Faculty members provide consultation and guidance for local, national and international referrals. Patients with both primary brain and spine tumors and metastatic tumors are seen in the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center multidisciplinary clinics that include representation from neurosurgery, medical neuro-oncology and radiation oncology. A weekly multidisciplinary neuro-oncology tumor board is a forum for a team of specialists to review patient problems and to formulate management recommendations. The tumor board draws from the expertise of the neurosurgery, neurology, radiology, pathology and radiation oncology faculty at UPMC. Similarly, there is a weekly skull base tumor board with involvement from otolaryngology/head and neck cancer specialists, neuro-ophthalmology, radiology, and adult and pediatric neurosurgery.

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, and Megan Mantica, MD.