CINCINNATI—A plan to invest $26 million over 10 years has established the Brain Tumor Center at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute.
The bulk of the financial commitment will be shared by University Hospital, UC and several neuroscience-related physician practices. Community donors are expected to raise the remaining $8.5 million needed.
The $26 million will endow clinical and research programs, fund the purchase of new technologies and accelerate collaboration among scientists and physicians.
The Brain Tumor Center will be closely affiliated with the UC Barrett Cancer Center at University Hospital and the joint cancer program, a cooperative initiative of UC, University Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“The Brain Tumor Center is a tremendous example of strong collaboration between University Hospital and UC to care for the residents of our community and the world beyond,” says Lee Ann Liska, senior vice president and executive director of University Hospital. “This multi-million-dollar investment will enable us to recruit additional clinicians and researchers and broaden services to our patients.”
John Tew, MD, clinical director of the UC Neuroscience Institute and professor of neurosurgery, adds, “This infusion of funds will propel brain tumor research and care in Cincinnati to a new level of excellence while inspiring broad collaboration. It will ensure that the UC Neuroscience Institute can continue to inspire the best and brightest scientists and physicians in our quest to provide better treatments—and cures—for people with brain tumors.”
The Brain Tumor Center cares for patients with every type of brain tumor. It includes specialists from the Mayfield Clinic and several College of Medicine departments, including neurosurgery, radiology, radiation oncology, otolaryngology (head and neck surgery), internal medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation.
About 215,000 brain tumors will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Of those, about 45,000 will be primary brain tumors, which originate from cells located within the brain. About 170,000 will be metastatic tumors, which develop when cancer cells from another part of the body travel through the bloodstream to the brain. Eighty percent of all brain tumors are malignant (cancerous).
This infusion of funds for research and new treatments occurs at a time when the incidence of brain tumors in America is rising. During the last two decades, the incidence has increased 22 percent overall and 55 percent in people over 65 years of age, according to the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute.
“The technology used for imaging brain tumors has greatly improved over the past decade,” says Ronald Warnick, MD, director of the Brain Tumor Center and chairman of the Mayfield Clinic. “But this fact alone does not account for the rise in brain tumors over this time period. Of particular concern is the increased incidence of brain tumors in people over 65 years old.”
The Brain Tumor Center, formerly known as the Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Research and Treatment, treats hundreds of patients from the Greater Cincinnati region and beyond annually. Treatment of each individual patient begins with a multidisciplinary team analysis, which is conducted by experts in neurosurgery, neuro-oncology, otolaryngology, neuroradiology and radiation oncology. Specialists collaborate during all phases of treatment—from testing and diagnosis, to discussion of treatment options, to execution of the optimal treatment strategy.
Specialists at the Brain Tumor Center employ multiple technologies in treating brain tumors, including image-guided neurosurgery, minimally invasive surgery, high-precision radiosurgery and radiotherapy, functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), intraoperative MRI, implantation of radioactive seeds and chemotherapy wafers, and immune system therapy.
Two developments in particular have revolutionized the treatment of brain tumors in the last few years. One is functional MRI, which enables brain tumor specialists to locate areas of the brain controlling language and motor functions before surgery and to chart a safe passage around these areas to the tumor. The other is minimally invasive cranial surgery, in which surgeons operate through tiny openings in the nose, eyebrow or skull, while causing minimal disruption to the brain.
The center’s enhanced funding will accelerate clinical research at University Hospital and Precision Radiotherapy in West Chester and laboratory research under way at UC’s Vontz Center for Molecular Studies and the Genome Research Institute.
“We expect the brain tumor program to allow for the rapid translation of research findings that will advance the care of patients with brain tumors,” says David Stern, MD, vice president for health affairs at UC and dean of the College of Medicine. “Our goal is to provide patients in Greater Cincinnati and beyond with access to unique care and clinical trials that would only be possible at an academic health center.”
The center’s physician researchers offer patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials that test new therapies and advance scientific understanding of the many kinds of brain tumors. Nine adult brain tumor trials are currently in progress.
Laboratory research teams—which include investigators, technicians, molecular epidemiologists and biostatisticians—are working to develop new drugs and therapies that can be translated into effective treatments for patients. They focus on cell interactions, development and regeneration. They also study how and why healthy cell processes go awry.
"We expect to see an explosion of translational research in the areas of immune system therapy and stem cell therapy,” Warnick says. “We also will continue to test and refine existing approaches such as radiation seeds, chemotherapy wafers and high-precision radiation therapy."
The UC Neuroscience Institute also is dedicated to the treatment of stroke, epilepsy, traumatic brain and spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, disorders of the senses (swallowing, voice, hearing, pain, taste and smell), and psychiatric conditions (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression).