Innovative Treatment for the Best in Patient Outcomes

Quality of life is an important consideration in JFK’s treatment approach. Brain and spinal cord tumors are extremely diverse both biologically and in response to treatment. The specific treatment plan recommended is dictated by a wide range of variables including tumor type, location of the tumor, patient age, neurological condition, and other existing medical conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. The NJNI Brain Tumor Center offers patients the latest, most advanced treatment modalities to give patients the best chance for positive outcomes. Treatment for these tumors includes surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, delivered alone or in combination.  

Access to Advanced Diagnostic Tools and Procedures

A tumor can often mimic other neurological disorders, and many common symptoms can indicate other medical conditions. Therefore, making an accurate diagnosis is critical to establishing the right treatment protocol for our patients.

The NJNI Brain Tumor Center employs cutting-edge diagnostic tools to locate and identify tumors combined with state-of-the-art laboratories to help determine which treatments are most appropriate. In fact, our imaging center utilizes technologically-advanced imaging not readily available at all institutions. The superb reliability of the 3T MRI allows our board-certified radiologists to differentiate between benign and potentially hazardous medical conditions with confidence. As a result, our healthcare team can provide an earlier diagnosis and treatment, subsequently leading to more positive outcomes. We also use Functional and Diffusion Tensor Imaging MRI scans, which delineate critical areas of function and their relationship to the tumor. With these studies, the potential risks of surgery are identified, greatly improving the planning of surgery and making possible treatments that would otherwise have not been attempted. Other specialized procedures include MR spectroscopy and PET imaging, which may help distinguish between tumor and non-tumor lesions of the brain.

Neurosurgery and Neuropathology

Surgical procedures may include biopsy (open or stereotactic) alone, or resection. Other surgical procedures may include functional brain mapping, which involves “awake” craniotomies for language mapping. Intraoperative monitoring and computer-assisted, image-guided surgery for both spine, and brain tumor patients, are frequently utilized. In addition, some patients may be appropriate for chemotherapy wafers placed at the time of surgery. These options are discussed with your treating neurosurgeon. The neurosurgical program includes minimally invasive spine procedures for tumor removal, as well as a skull-based tumor program under the direction of a neurosurgeon with expertise in endoscopic neurosurgical approaches.

During the surgical procedure, a piece of tissue will be sent to our neuropathologist for immediate feedback. This aids the neurosurgeon in making surgical decisions at the time of surgery, and potentially saves the patient from having multiple procedures to come to a single diagnosis. Our neuropathology services are proud to offer a brain tumor marker panel done on-site to identify specific protein and gene changes in the tumors. These markers may aid in treatment choices and provide prognostic information. They include p53, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR),methyl-guanine methyltransferase (MGMT) and phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN). We also offer the evaluation of chromosomal 1p and 19q deletions for cases of oligodendroglioma. These results are discussed with our multidisciplinary team to make further recommendations regarding treatment. GBMDxTM is also sent when appropriate for further information.

Radiation Oncology

Over the past two decades, new techniques have been developed for the effective delivery of radiation that targets the brain tumor while protecting nearby healthy tissues. Conventional radiation therapy uses external beams aimed at the tumor to kill cancer cells and shrink brain tumors. However, new types of radiation therapy are available to ensure greater precision in the treatment of more complex tumors. These more progressive therapies — Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), 3-D Conformal Radiation Therapy, High-Dose Rate Brachytherapy and Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery — ensure patients access to the most appropriate treatment options available. (The NJNI was the first facility in New Jersey to offer Gamma Knife radiosurgery, the treatment of choice among neurosurgeons for a multitude of tumors, vascular malformations and functional neurological disorders.) Although some tumors may be treatable with any of these, a decision on the most appropriate modality for the particular type of tumor is decided upon by the patient's entire team of treating physicians.

Adjuvant Chemotherapy and Follow-up

With a balanced approach to patient care, the NJNI Brain Tumor Center offers progressive chemotherapy treatment to help combat a patient’s specific diagnosis. The Neuro-oncology team is proud to offer standard chemotherapy regimens, but also some of the most advanced treatments available.

The NJNI Brain Tumor Center provides patients access to new advanced treatment options under investigation through our participation in pharmaceutical-sponsored and investigator-initiated clinical trials as well as Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) clinical trials and Cancer Institute of New Jersey Oncology Group (CINJOG) clinical trials. Both the RTOG and CINJOG are leading multicenter research organizations systematically testing novel treatment approaches against cancer and pursuing fully-integrated translational and quality-of-life research to advance this effort.