Brain and Spine Tumors | Types of Treatment

Innovative and Advanced Therapies for Brain and Spine Tumors

Our care team will develop a comprehensive treatment plan customized to your child’s diagnosis and specific needs.

Chemotherapy involves using anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells or slow down their growth. Many new drugs target specific changes (mutations) in tumors, or activate the immune system to kill cancer cells and reduce chemotherapy side effects. Sometimes, experimental chemotherapy regimens offer the best promise for a cure. We partner with national research organizations and drug companies to bring these therapies to our patients.

Learn more about our clinical trials for children and young adults.

Advanced radiation therapy techniques destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy organs and tissue. This reduces the risk of treatment-related side effects and long-term complications. Cincinnati Children’s offers:

  • Proton therapy, which uses pencil beam scanning, the most advanced proton therapy technology available. Learn more
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery, which delivers high doses of radiation using custom-shaped beams to difficult-to-reach areas
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which delivers radiation of different intensities that conforms to a tumor’s shape

The BrainSUITE is an operating room with highly specialized equipment that helps surgeons be more precise in locating and removing brain tumors. This can preserve areas of the brain that control important functions, such as speech and movement. Cincinnati Children’s was the first children’s hospital in the world to use this system.

During surgeries on the brain, computer-generated images automatically match information from diagnostic tests with the patient’s position on the operating table. This allows the neurosurgeon to see the exact position of the surgical instruments in relation to the targeted brain tissue.

Bone marrow transplantation offers a way to provide intense chemotherapy for brain and spine tumors, and can help reduce the need for radiation therapy in some children. Our multidisciplinary team has performed more than 1,900 bone marrow transplants in the program’s 31-year history.

The process involves preserving a patient’s healthy bone marrow, delivering high-dose therapy, then returning the healthy cells to the patient to help encourage the recovery of the immune system.

When a tumor of the brain or spine does not respond to treatment or returns following treatment, the care team may develop a new strategy involving innovative therapies such as:

  • Tumor genetic testing, which allows us to individualize treatment plans based on a tumor’s genetic markers
  • Targeted small molecule anticancer agents and immune-modulating therapy regimens. Targeted therapies act specifically on tumor cells by directing therapy against mutations or markers found in these cells. Immunotherapy encourages the body’s own immune system to control the tumor.

Our Approach to Treatment: Multidisciplinary, Team-Based Care

Your child will receive expert care from a dedicated team that includes a pediatric neuro-oncologist (physician who specializes in brain and spine tumors), nurse practitioner and neuro-oncology care manager. Depending upon your child’s needs, the team will expand to include others, including pediatric care specialists in:

  • Neurology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Radiation oncology
  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Endocrinology (growth and hormone specialist)
  • Genetics
  • Neuro-ophthalmology (for visual problems related to the nervous system)
  • Pathology (laboratory services)
  • Psychology
  • Rehabilitation therapy specialists

Comprehensive Care Coordination

Your child’s neuro-oncology care managers are nurses who will serve as your family’s point person. You can depend on your care manager to schedule your child’s clinic appointments and medical tests, follow-up on lab results, provide extensive education about your child’s condition and care, plan for a smooth transition back home after a hospital stay, coordinate your child’s participation in research studies, answer questions between clinic appointments and provide emotional support.

Caring providers stand ready to offer additional support − and you don’t even have to ask. Services can include:

  • Child life therapy
  • Pain management
  • Psychological care
  • Holistic therapies, such as massage therapy, reflexology and yoga 
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Nutrition

Patient Stories

Photo of Lillian with a teddy bear.

Read stories of hope and inspiration from patients and families who were cared for by the Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute at Cincinnati Children's.

Read More