The UAB Neuro-Oncology Program consists of a multi-disciplinary team of experts who work together to care for patients with brain tumors. This team includes the following health care professionals:
Neurosurgeons: Surgery is the first line of treatment for many brain tumors, and it is used both to remove tumor as well as provide tissue for accurate diagnosis. The neurosurgeons who are part of the Neuro-Oncology Program team are highly experienced in performing these procedures, and they actively collaborate with the other members of the team in the development of new, investigational treatments.
Radiation Oncologists: Radiation therapy is the second line of treatment for most patients with brain tumors, and its use is coordinated and supervised by this group of physicians. Our radiation oncologists participate closely as members of the Neuro-Oncology Program team, and provide state-of-the-art radiation therapy for brain tumor patients. Furthermore, like the other members of the Neuro-Oncology Program team, these physicians are also actively involved in developing new, experimental methods of administering radiation therapy in order to improve the outcome for patients with brain tumors.
Neuro-Oncologists: Medical therapy is the third line of treatment for patients with brain tumors, and includes conventional chemotherapy as well as the use of novel, experimental therapies that are designed to destroy tumors that cannot be removed by surgery or radiation therapy. Neuro-oncologists oversee this part of the treatment plan for patients with brain tumors. In addition, they take care of the medical and neurologic problems that many patients with brain tumors develop, including seizures, infections, and emotional problems.
Neuropathologists: Accurate diagnosis of the type of brain tumor that a patient has is critical, since different tumors respond to different types of treatment. Our team of neuropathologists with the Neuro-Oncology Program utilize a wide range of conventional and molecular tools to not only diagnose brain tumors, but to provide the team with additional information, such as what treatments are most likely to be effective for an individual brain tumor patient. The Division of Neuropathology at UAB is one of the largest in the country, and is highly experienced in working with the rest of the Brain Tumor team.
Neuropsychologists: Brain tumors can affect personality, memory, speech, and problem-solving ability. Neuropsychologists measure how these features change in response to treatment, and in how they impact on the quality of life. Their studies provide other members of the Neuro-Oncology Program with important input into the long-term management of patients with brain tumors.
Nurse Practitioners: These health care professionals follow the day-to-day progress of the patients seen in the Program. They monitor the medications that our patients take to control their medical and neurologic problems, they follow the effects of chemotherapy or investigational therapy on our patients' blood counts and other laboratory results, and pay close attention to our patients' emotional needs. They work closely with the physician members of the team in formulating individualized treatment plans for our patients and in following the results of treatment.
Research Scientists: At UAB, we remain committed to improve how we treat patients with brain tumors. An essential part of this commitment is our support of a team of research scientists who devote their efforts to identifying promising new treatments in the research laboratory. These research efforts are devoted to: 1) understanding how brain tumors start to grow, 2) how they spread through the brain, 3) how they provide themselves with a blood supply to support their growth, 4) how they damage normal brain in the process of growing, and 5) how all this information can be translated into new therapies.
Cooperation with Other Brain Tumor Programs Nationwide
The UAB Neuro-Oncology Program is a leading member of one of the two national brain tumor clinical cooperative groups that are supported by the National Cancer Institute to study new, experimental treatments for patients with malignant brain tumors. Our leadership role in our clinical cooperative group--called the NABTT (New Approaches to Brain Tumor Therapy) Consortium--means that we can introduce new forms of chemotherapy, gene therapy, and biologic therapy that are only available to a limited number of centers nationwide. Furthermore, as a member of the NABTT Consortium, we collaborate closely with the other members (which beside UAB also include Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Henry Ford Hospital, The Cleveland Clinic, Wake Forest University, The University of Pennsylvania, Emory University, and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center) in sharing "cutting edge" information on brain tumor diagnosis and treatment. This provides the UAB Neuro-Oncology Program with access to the latest information and the latest medications--often long before these become available to the general medical community.
The UAB Neuro-Oncology Program as a Center of Research Excellence
Our commitment to improving the outcome of people afflicted with brain tumors means that we are equally committed to finding new treatments that are more effective than what is currently available in the general community. This requires a commitment to both basic and applied research. Fortunately, our Brain Tumor Program's excellence in clinical care is matched by its outstanding record of research productivity. We have over fifteen laboratories at UAB that are devoted to studying brain tumors. Research work runs the gamut from basic studies that are attempting to elucidate how brain tumors grow and invade to applied studies that are attempting to capitalize on our knowledge to design novel, non-toxic treatments. While much of this research is supported by funds from the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the federal government, much is also supported by private donations from the community. Our excellence in basic and applied brain tumor research was recognized in 2002 by the National Cancer Institute, which awarded the UAB Brain Tumor Program with the first of four Specialized Programs in Research Excellence (SPORE) grants nationwide. This $11.8 million grant supports five research projects and five core support facilities, which together have produced 3 new clinical trials for patients with brain tumors within the first four years. Research conducted at UAB has already led to several clinical trials in gene and biologic therapies, and we anticipate that the SPORE will develop to at least one new brain tumor treatment annually.