Pediatric Brain and Spinal Cord Tumor Center
Families of children with brain and spinal cord tumors face great challenges, but finding comprehensive, compassionate care shouldn’t be one of them. The Pediatric Brain and Spinal Cord Tumor Center provides families with a wide array of services so that each child has the best chance for a cure, as well as the best possible quality of life.
At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, our doctors are experts in treating a wide variety of brain and spinal tumors, as well as eye tumors (retinoblastoma), in children. We can provide a full spectrum of pediatric oncology services, from your child’s initial diagnosis through his or her treatment and recovery.
We offer the latest technologies so that doctors can develop the most accurate diagnosis of your child’s condition. This includes computed tomography (CT), which uses X-rays to study the brain, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses radio waves and computers to create images of the brain and spine. Other tools include magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Both of these techniques rely on analysis of the biochemical make-up of tumor.
Treatment for brain and spinal cord tumors can involve a combination of therapies, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The goal of treatment is to remove or destroy as much of the tumor as possible while protecting the healthy tissue around it. Our skilled pediatric neurosurgeons are experienced in a number of less invasive surgeries, such as endoscopic procedures done through smaller incisions with specially designed instruments. In selected cases, state-of-the-art computer navigation systems can help doctors “map” the brain and spine, and the location of the tumor.
Advanced radiation technologies are also available to protect healthy brain tissue. This includes 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), both of which deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor but not the surrounding area. In addition, stereotactic radiosurgery--which doesn’t involve any incisions--can be used to treat some brain tumors in children. This type of radiation uses advanced computer imaging to give doctors a very precise target for treatment.
Chemotherapy can play a major role in the treatment plan, including conventional doses of chemotherapy, as well as high dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell rescue, often referred to as autologous stem cell transplant.
Rehabilitation is also a key part of your child’s treatment, helping to maintain or regain skills or function that can be reduced during the illness.
Children facing cancer often have ongoing medical, emotional, social, and developmental needs. Our doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals recognize these issues and can provide your family with resources and tools to help you cope and stay informed.
Children who have survived cancer may face continuing health issues as they grow older. To meet these challenges, Comer Children’s Hospital created a special program for survivors of childhood cancers. The program also helps young patients address some of the social and emotional concerns they may have as cancer survivors.
Our Dedicated Team
At Comer Children’s Hospital, pediatric experts from a wide range of disciplines are part of your child’s care team. This includes:
- Pediatric oncologists
- Pediatric neurosurgeons
- Radiation oncologists
- Pediatric neurologists
- Pediatric endocrinologists
- Rehabilitation specialists
- Occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists
- Social workers
- Child life specialists
Program medical director Charles Rubin, MD, and the center’s pediatric nurse practitioner coordinate the treatment team. These professionals are part of our award-winning cancer and neuroscience programs.
Despite tremendous advances in pediatric cancer treatment, some children with brain tumors cannot be cured with conventional treatment. But our team is hopeful that cures for these children could be on the horizon.
Our center collaborates with research groups around the country to give patients access to the most promising treatments available in clinical trials. Some of these research groups include the National Cancer Institute, the Children’s Oncology Group, the Neurofibromatosis Research Program, and the Pediatric Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Consortium.
Providing comfort to very ill patients and their families is a priority we take to heart. Our palliative care team includes experts at treating pain and other quality-of-life issues that accompany patients during treatment or at the end of life.