Researchers Focus on Brain Tumor Treatments

close up of researcher's hands as she works in lab

Cancers that impact the brain and spinal cord affect thousands of people every year. These cancers can be challenging to treat due to their sensitive locations and the body’s natural barriers that protect the brain. However, thanks to new research, we are developing more innovative tools to battle tumors in the spinal cord and brain.

Check out some of the new frontiers in treatment below:

  • Because of a phenomenon known as the blood-brain barrier, many chemotherapy treatments have not been effective on brain tumors because they are not able to enter the brain. Researchers are now working on ways to modify certain drugs and to attach them to fats or molecules that normally pass through this barrier so they can get where they need to go. There is also work being done on an approach called convection-enhanced therapy, which helps bypass the brain-blood barrier altogether by delivering medicine directly to a tumor via a thin tube and infusion pump.
  • New types of imaging and other techniques are being introduced to help doctors operate safely and more effectively on brain tumors. Florescence-guided imagery uses a special florescent dye to highlight exactly where a tumor is, making it much easier for a surgeon to distinguish the tumor from the healthy tissue around it. Surgeries using an endoscope, a tiny camera inserted into the body via a thin tube, are also making it possible to operate on some brain tumors in a much less invasive way.
  • Drugs that impair angiogenesis, or the growth of tumor’s blood vessels, is one way to slow or stop the growth of some tumors. Researchers are working on drugs known as angiogenesis inhibitors that keep tumors from forming new vessels. Bevacizumab, or Avastin, is one such drug that has now been approved by the FDA to treat recurrent glioblastomas.
  • Radiation therapy for brain tumors has become more precise thanks to innovative treatments, such as 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3d-CRT), that allow doctors to direct radiation onto cancerous tissue with a much lower chance of impacting the healthier tissue around it. Scientists are now studying an even newer technique called image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which uses a CT scan done just before treatment to more effectively target exactly where radiation should go.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.