Our Program

In the United States, more than 17,000 new cases of primary brain tumors and 6,000 spinal cord tumors are diagnosed each year. The USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center at Keck Medical Center of USC in Los Angeles has an internationally recognized team of expert clinicians and renowned researchers who are focused on fighting benign and malignant tumors. Working with the Neuro Oncology Program, physicians and staff work in teams to develop a diagnostic and treatment plan optimized for the each specific brain and spine tumors.

Our Approach

There are many different types of brain and spinal tumors, each necessitating a unique approach to treatment that may require medical, surgical or radiation-based intervention.

The USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center offers a comprehensive approach to caring for patients with brain and spinal tumors, bringing together neurosurgeons, medical neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists and radiologists to provide patients with a broad range of treatment options.

  • Brain Tumors
    For surgical removal of brain tumors, our physicians maximize pre-operative information to pinpoint the location of the tumor and minimize the risk to surrounding areas of the brain. To ensure the preservation of speech and motor function, USC offers awake craniotomy for the removal of selected brain tumors. The USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center at Keck Medical Center of USC utilizes advanced neuro-navigational technology and frameless stereotactic devices to more accurately localize brain tumors. This system helps to reduce the size of incisions and the length of hospital stay.
  • Spinal tumors
    For management of tumors in the spinal cord, we provide the most innovative and sophisticated medical and surgical treatments to prolong survival and preserve the patient’s quality of life. Advanced techniques include the CyberKnife® and TruBeam™ STx minimally invasive stereotactic methods, as well as such medical treatments as radiation and chemical and drug therapy.

Conditions

The USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center at Keck Medical Center of USC in Los Angeles diagnoses and treats a wide variety of brain and spinal cancers. These tumors are abnormal masses of tissue that appear in the brain or spinal cord. They can be benign or malignant. Primary tumors are those that originated in the brain or spinal tissue, while metastatic tumors traveled to the brain or spinal cord from another part of the body.

Spinal Tumors
Spinal tumors treated by specialists at the USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center range from benign cancers to complex, vascularized tumors that can have complications if not treated appropriately. Program physicians have clinical experience and research expertise in managing many complex types of spinal tumors, including chordoma and metastatic spinal tumors.

Primary tumors treated include:
Nerve tube tumors – cancers that can arise during the very early stages of human growth, as the central and peripheral nervous systems develop.
Neurofibromas – tumors found in the myelin sheath surrounding peripheral nerves (or parts of the spinal cord), nearly always in patients who have the genetic disorder neurofibromatosis.
Chordoma – a rare cancer that occurs in the bones surrounding the spinal cord.
Spinal sarcoma – tumors, usually not metastatic, that occur in bones surrounding the spinal cord.
Benign tumors of the spine – non-metastatic cancers in various locations in or around spinal cord tissue, which can cause problems with mobility sensation or other issues depending on the tumor’s size and location.

Brain tumors
Gliomas account for more than half of primary brain tumors treated by the USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center. The most malignant type of glioma, the glioblastoma multiforme, constitutes more than 50 percent of all gliomas. The World Health Organization classifies gliomas into a four-tiered grading system: grade I (juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma), grade II (low-grade astrocytoma), grade III (anaplastic astrocytoma) and grade IV (glioblastoma multiforme).

Brain tumors treated include:
Acoustic neuroma – a benign, slow-growing tumor that grows on the nerve connected the inner ear and the brain.
CNS Lymphoma – a cancer in which malignant cells form in the lymph tissue in the brain.
Ependymoma – a tumor that can fast- or slow growing, and which forms in the cells that line the ventricles of the brain, or the center of the spinal cord.
Glioblastoma – cancers, usually highly malignant, that form in the “astrocytes,” cells that form supportive tissues in the brain.
Low Grade Glioma – any slower-growing cancer that forms in the brain’s “astrocytes” or supportive tissue cells.
Oligodendroglioma – a type of tumor cell that forms in supportive tissue in the brain.
Craniopharyngiomas – cancers, usually benign, that arise in groups of cells making up the “stalk” of the pituitary gland.
Meningioma – tumors that arise in tissues that surround and protect the surfaces of the brain and spinal cord.
Metastatic brain tumors – tumors that originated from another part of the body and have been found in brain tissue.
Pituitary Tumor – cancer in the pituitary gland, which controls the body’s growth.

Treatments

Brain and spine tumors come in a great variety of types, each requiring a different approach to treatment that may require medical, surgical or radiation-based intervention. The USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center offers a comprehensive approach to caring for patients with brain tumors.

Brain Tumor Treatments
Our physicians maximize the use of pre-operative information to pinpoint the location of the tumor and minimize the risk to surrounding areas of the brain. To ensure the preservation of speech and motor function, we offer awake craniotomy for the removal of selected brain tumors.

Keck Medical Center of USC is one of six facilities in California to offer an advanced Gamma Knife® and only one of two in Los Angeles to feature its latest version, Perfexion™. In addition, USC is one of three centers in California offering CyberKnife® stereotactic radiotherapy. Considered one the most significant developments in neurosurgery, this device is designed to deliver enough radiation to destroy the tumor while sparing adjacent, healthy tissue. Providing surgeons with non-invasive methods of treating inoperable brain tumors, the goal of Gamma Knife® or CyberKnife® treatment is to reduce risk to the patient while maximizing the therapy’s effectiveness.

Keck Medical Center is one of the few university-based medical centers where the interventional neuro-radiologists are part of the neuro-oncology team. These physicians specialize in the embolization of tumors of the brain. The lesions are treated and are then more amenable to surgical and radiation-based therapies.

Spinal Tumor Treatments
Just like brain tumor treatment, the key to successful spinal tumor treatment is an accurate and timely diagnosis. Care received is dictated by what kind of cancer is being managed. The team at the USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center provide the most innovative and sophisticated surgical and non-surgical treatment to prolong survival and improve quality of life.

Spinal cord tumor specialists may also use the CyberKnife® stereotactic radiotherapy and Truebeam™ STx radiosurgery.

Resources

American Brain Tumor Association
A wealth of information about brain and spinal tumors.
abta.org

Clinical trials
Patients have the option of taking part in clinical trials being conducted at Keck Medical Center of USC. While clinical trial participation does not ensure that an effective treatment will be received, participation does help provide invaluable information for future treatments, and possibly a cure in the future. Learn about brain and spinal tumor clinical trials at Keck Medical Center of USC in Los Angeles as they become open to patients.

Our Physicians

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Practicing Locations

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
USC Healthcare Center 4
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
Keck Medicine of USC - Pasadena
USC Healthcare Center 4
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Practicing Locations

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
view profile

Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
view profile

Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
USC Healthcare Center 2
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
view profile
view profile

Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
USC Healthcare Center 2
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital

Additional Faculty

Almon Shiu, PhD
Cheng Yu, PhD

Additional Team Members

Barbara Rolph, RN