Spinal Tumor Program: Multidisciplinary Care for Patients with Spinal Tumors

If your patient has been diagnosed with a spinal tumor, there are many treatment options, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Determining the most appropriate treatment plan can be challenging, and often requires the collective opinion of multiple physicians across several specialties.

“The Spinal Tumor Program is a unique program that offers consultative services to physicians who are caring for patients with tumors of the spine. Our physicians work as a multidisciplinary team to create individualized treatment plans for each patient,” says John H. Chi, MD, director of neurosurgical spine cancer at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In addition to Dr. Chi, the Spinal Tumor Program (STP) is led by orthopaedic surgeon Marco L. Ferrone, MD, radiation oncologist Tracy A. Balboni, MD, and radiologist Charles H. Cho, MD.

“Other leading institutions treat patients with spinal tumors,” says Dr. Ferrone, “But our collaboration across multiple specialties and exclusive focus on spinal tumors is unique within New England, and places us among only a few multidisciplinary spinal tumor programs nationwide.”

The Spinal Tumor Program meets weekly in the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine to discuss 10-12 complex spinal tumor patients. Since 2012, the STP has grown to a group of approximately 40 neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, radiation oncologists, interventional and diagnostic radiologists, and specialists in pain management and palliative care.

“By drawing on our combined expertise, our program addresses the unique needs of each patient with spinal tumors, bringing a holistic approach to technical decisions, such as surgery, stereotactic radiation therapy and interventional spine procedures, and to overall cancer care,” says Dr. Balboni.

Case Study: Breast Cancer Patient with Neck Pain

The Spinal Tumor Program recently received a referral from a radiation oncologist and medical oncologist at BWH who were caring for a breast cancer patient with worsening neck pain. A CT scan revealed a destructive tumor in the patient’s spine. It wasn’t clear whether surgery was needed, or if radiation could be provided safely.

“We reviewed the patient’s history, tests and images, and discussed all aspects of care, including surgery, vertebroplasty, and radiation. The indications for surgery were still low, so we recommended radiation treatment,” says Dr. Chi.

The referring physicians moved forward with the group’s decision, knowing that their patient’s condition received a comprehensive review and the most appropriate treatment choice was made.

“This program is about each physician bringing their expertise into a collaborative platform and working together to develop the best treatment plan for the individual patient,” says Dr. Cho.

The Spinal Tumor Program meets weekly to develop and review treatment plans for patients with spinal tumors, and facilitates coordinated care and treatment with Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center spine specialists.

To refer a patient to the Spinal Tumor Program, please call (617) 525-6687.      

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