Specialized surgeons at one of the highest-volume brain tumor centers in the U.S. are refining less invasive approaches to diagnosis and treatment.
Integrated decision-making by a multidisciplinary, comprehensive team of experts is the foundation of Cedars-Sinai’s approach to all types of brain tumors. Together, providers perform precision diagnosis and devise a cohesive strategy that prioritizes each patient’s survival and quality of life.
Cedars-Sinai researchers are similarly committed to developing less invasive techniques that improve outcomes for even the most complex cases. Skilled surgeons perform highly technical endoscopic endonasal procedures for the removal of many anterior skull-base tumors. Cedars-Sinai studies show that such removal of meningiomas and craniopharyngiomas produced similar outcomes to traditional open surgery but with less time spent in the hospital and fewer complications.
"We prioritize a unified experience for patients. Not only can they access all their care in one place, but they know their doctors talk to one another regularly about their treatment plan." —Keith L. Black, MD
Investigators are also expanding upon an imaging technique, developed in part at Cedars-Sinai, that uses a synthesized form of scorpion venom that binds to cancer cells and fluoresces under a specialized camera. While the commercially available agent is efficient in lighting up glioblastomas for better visualization during surgery, an ongoing Phase II trial is testing a compound meant to bind more specifically to other gliomas to distinguish them from normal brain tissue. Experts are also studying the utility of a related protein to differentiate acoustic neuroma and lateral skull-base tumor tissue. Their findings may expand surgeons’ ability to spare the cochlear and facial nerves.
Surviving and Living to the Fullest During Continued Care
In 1992, when Sheri Saenz was diagnosed with a grade 4 astrocytoma, she didn’t think she’d live to see her 1- and 2-year-old daughters grow up. She even wrote letters for them to receive on their future birthdays and high school graduations.
But more than 30 years later—after getting lifesaving, ongoing care at Cedars-Sinai—the Laguna Niguel native is celebrating more milestones than she could have imagined. She and her husband of 35 years have cheered each of their daughters through graduate school and rejoiced in the births of two grandchildren.
After her diagnosis, Saenz traveled for treatment to a northern California medical center. When the tumor recurred a year later, she sought care closer to home with Keith L. Black, MD, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai.
Cedars-Sinai’s neurosurgeons are subspecialized in every type of brain tumor. They work as part of a comprehensive care team to help patients navigate the complexities inherent in neurosurgery, including identifying appropriate clinical trials and devising innovative treatment plans that prioritize quality of life and the best long-term outcomes.
Black continuously monitored Saenz’s MRI scans, and in 2003, he performed a complete removal of the tumor. In 2007, when the tumor recurred a second time, Black operated again. Saenz underwent chemotherapy and participated in a clinical trial led by Black and has shown no evidence of a recurrence ever since.
“In significant numbers of patients, we can achieve long-term survival with good quality of life, and Sheri is a perfect example,” Black said. “We know that if we are aggressive, there’s a very good possibility that we can keep that tumor in check for a very long time.”
Saenz credits her continued recovery to her family, her surgeon and her adherence to her doctor’s advice.
“Think positive and never give up,” she said.
Keith L. Black, MD Chair, Department of Neurosurgery Ruth and Lawrence Harvey Chair in Neuroscience Director, Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute Professor of Neurosurgery
John Yu, MD Vice Chair, Neurosurgical Oncology in the Department of Neurosurgery Director, Surgical Neuro-Oncology Professor of Neurosurgery