New Institute Targets Brain Tumor Survival

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2009-01-26 07:30

Primary brain tumors affect nearly 20,000 Americans each year -- and every year more than half die as a result. For young adults ages 30-39, brain tumors are the third-leading cause of death among men and the fifth-leading among women. Despite significant advances in cancer treatment, on average, adults with glioblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor, survive roughly 12 to 14 months post diagnosis.

"Currently less than one-third of adults survive five years after being diagnosed with a primary brain tumor," says Jeffrey Raizer, MD, director of medical neuro-oncology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and co-director of the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute. "Our mission is to improve patient survival through clinical and scientific research."

The Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute is a collaboration of Northwestern Memorial, the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. It was established to merge medical research with state-of-the-art, comprehensive care to better manage and treat patients with brain tumors. In addition, the Institute emphasizes therapeutic approaches that preserve quality of life while taking every measure possible to extend life.

"Brain tumor treatment is very complicated," says James Chandler, MD, Northwestern Memorial's surgical director of neuro-oncology and the Institute's other co-director. "The very therapy that may eradicate malignancies may also diminish quality of life for some patients."

The Institute's three-pronged approach rests upon surgery, medical treatment and clinical research. With surgery for example, advanced neuro-imaging techniques, neuro-navigation and brain mapping, makes brain tumor surgery much more precise than in years past. And, through minimally invasive endoscopic skull-based procedures, brain tumors can be accessed through the patient's nose, eliminating the need to split the face and skull.

With medical treatment, the neuro-oncology team provides an extensive list of cutting-edge chemotherapies offered through clinical trials. In addition, medical treatment is uniquely integrated with psychosocial therapy options like monthly support groups and a Brain Tumor resource center. The rapid growth of Northwestern's clinical neuro-oncology programs has lead to the natural evolution of growth within the sciences.

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