Brain and spinal tumors, like many other cancers, come in a great variety of pathologic types, each necessitating a different approach to treatment that may require medical, surgical, or radiological intervention. As a result, an effective neuro-oncology program requires expertise in all of these therapeutic modalities. This expertise is available at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.
The USC/Norris Neuro-Oncology program offers a comprehensive approach to caring for patients with brain tumors, bringing together medical neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons to provide patients with a broad range of treatment options. Such an approach can be of great benefit to the patient, not only at the initial diagnosis and treatment, but also at time of relapse, should a tumor recur.
Who We Are
Thomas C. Chen, M.D., Ph.D.
Co-Director, USC/Norris Neuro-Oncology Program
Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery and Pathology, USC Keck School of Medicine
Appointments: (323) 865-3145
Dr. Chen specializes in neuro-oncology, treating a wide range of brain and spinal cord tumors. His clinical and research interests are three pronged: 1) using neuronavigational instrumentation and frameless strategic devices to localize brain tumors prior to open surgery; 2) performing clinical trials for the treatment brain tumors; 3) conducting translational lab research focusing on gliomas. Dr. Chen received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his surgical internship and neurosurgical residency at USC, where he also earned his doctorate in experimental pathology. He then completed a one-year spine fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin before joining the USC faculty in 1997. He is currently a tenured associate professor of neurosurgery and pathology.
Patrick Hsieh, M.D.
Director of the USC Neurosurgery Spine Center
Associate Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery, USC Keck School of Medicine
Appointments: (323) 442-5757
Dr. Hsieh is a fellowship-trained spine surgeon, with expertise in spine tumors, spinal deformity, minimally invasive surgery, and other complex spinal procedures. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California Los Angeles and his medical degree from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. He was a distinguished scholar at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1998 and he performed research in the field of neuro-genetics at the National Institute of Health. He subsequently completed his surgical internship and neurosurgery residency at Northwestern University McGaw Medical Center in Chicago. While at Northwestern, he also received specialized training in spinal deformity surgery and advanced minimal invasive spine surgery. Dr. Hsieh then completed an additional spine instructorship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, specializing in spinal oncology and complex spinal reconstructive surgery.
Patient Centered Environment
A key element of the USC/Norris Neuro-Oncology Program is the presence of the clinical nurse practitioner who stays in contact with the patient throughout the course of care, provides education and information for the patient and during treatment helps meet patient's needs. Once the treatment is completed, the nurse practioner helps coordinate post-treatment care as well as link the patient to support groups and other community resources.
Close Contact with Referring Physicians
The USC/Norris Neuro-Oncology team is dedicated to staying in close touch with referring physicians, providing them with timely correspondence about the status of their patients. In addition, community-based physicians and specialists are encouraged to call our oncologic specialties for consultations on complex cases.
Wealth of Surgical and Radiological Expertise
In excising brain tumors, our physicians have adopted the strategy of maximizing the use of pre-operative information to pinpoint the location of the tumor and minimizing the risk to surrounding areas of the brain.
The USC/Norris Neuro Oncology program utilizes advanced neuronavigational technology and frameless stereotactic devices to better localize brain tumors. Making efficient use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), our surgeons substitute the traditional stereotactic frame, which must be anchored to the skull for scalp markers.Â A sophisticated neuronavigational computer software system then uses these multiple markers as registration points, translating a flat image into 3-D space.Â This approach enables the use of more local anesthesia to perform open brain surgery, thus avoiding the risks associated with general anesthesia. Another advantage of this technique to the patient is a shorter hospital stay.
We use positron emission tomography (PET) and, for some tumors, MR spectroscopy to assess the metabolic status of the tumor. This information helps differentiate between tumor recurrence and tissue necrosis. Additionally, we use functional MR imaging in tumors involving eloquent areas of brain to better plan surgery.
USC University Hospital is one of six facilities in California to offer an advanced Gamma Knife and only one of two in Los Angeles to feature its latest version, Perfexion. In addition, USC is one of three centers in California offering cyberknife, stereotactic radiotherapy. Considered one the most significant developments in neurosurgery, this device is designed to deliver enough radiation to destroy the tumor while sparing adjacent, normal tissue. Providing surgeons with non-invasive method of treating inoperable brain tumors, the goal of gamma or cyberknife treatment is to reduce risk to the patient while maximizing the therapies effectiveness.
USC is one of a handful of universities where the interventional neuroradiologists are part of the neuro-oncology team. These physicians specialize in the embolization of tumors of the brain. The lesions are treated and are then more amenable to surgical and radiological therapies.
Description of Neuro-Oncology Program
- Clinics held at Norris Cancer Center on Mondays and some Friday mornings
- Clinics held at LA County-USC Hospital every first and third week with Dr. Chen
- Surgery performed at USC University Hospital
- Radiation therapy administered at USC/Norris Cancer Center
Facts and Stats
- Within the next 12 months, over 100,000 people in the USA will be diagnosed with primary (18,000) or metastatic brain tumors (80,000), and the incidence is on the rise.
- Brain tumors are the second leading cause of cancer death in children under the age of 15 and in young adults up to age 34 years.
- Approximately 44% of all primary brain tumors are benign
- Currently, brain tumors cannot be prevented because their cause is still unknown
For more information please call Kisha Smith (323) 226-7421
Please submit all correspondence to:
Thomas Chen, M.D.
c/o Lydia Wilson, NP
USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
1441 Eastlake Avenue, Room 3440
Los Angeles, CA 90033-1048
Appointments may be coordinated through Nancy Acevedo