Tumor Board Provides Patients with Advice from Team of Experts
More than 1,200 people undergo brain tumor surgery at Barrow Neurological Institute every year, each of them receiving an individualized treatment plan developed by a team of doctors from different specialties.
In many cases, multiple experts at Barrow have the opportunity to weigh in on the treatment approach for a brain or spinal cord tumor. These experts are part of the Tumor Board at Barrow, which meets every Monday to review about a dozen cases.
“Experts from different specialties, such as neurosurgery, radiation oncology, neuro-oncology, neuropathology, and neuroradiology meet in the same room, trying to figure out the best way to manage cases,” said Radiation Oncologist Dr. Emad Youssef, who specializes in using radiation therapy to treat tumors. “Clinical trial coordinators are also available.”
About 20-30 experts attend the meetings on average. They usually give their input following a new tumor diagnosis, which is determined after a neuropathologist examines a tumor sample that has been surgically removed. However, cases may be presented at any point where input from other experts may be helpful.
“A consensus decision on the working diagnosis and the next step in management is crucial for many of these patients,” said Neuro-Oncologist Dr. Christopher Dardis, a neurologist with special training in the treatment of brain tumors using medications and chemotherapy. “Differences of opinion are rapidly reconciled and new perspectives are often brought to bear. Without this regular meeting, decision-making would be slower and in many cases not as well informed.”
Jaclyn Garcia, nurse navigator in the Brain Tumor Research Center, said patients are able to get the collective opinion of various specialists within a week of their initial surgery.
“Recommendations are relayed to the patient after the Tumor Board meeting or at their postoperative visit,” she said.
Recommendations include everything from additional surgery to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and potential clinical trial eligibility.
“For patients from near or far, our multidisciplinary Tumor Board provides comprehensive analysis of even the most complicated brain tumor patients and charts a way forward for each with the most advanced surgical, radiation, and medical therapies available anywhere in the world,” said Neurosurgeon Dr. Nader Sanai.
Rebecca Eliason, 47, was pleased to learn of Barrow’s Tumor Board as she prepared for her brain tumor surgery. The board reviewed her case the Monday following her Wednesday procedure and confirmed that she had had a hemangioblastoma, an uncommon but benign (noncancerous) and slow-growing tumor that arises in the blood vessels.
“I thought it was a little hard to wait until the Tumor Board met, but it was worth waiting because I felt much more confident in my diagnosis and treatment plan once they met,” she said.
Dr. Dardis noted that the weekly meetings also help keep participants abreast of new developments within each subspecialty and are educational for people in their postgraduate training at Barrow.