Brain and spinal cord tumors are abnormal growths of tissues found within the central nervous system. There are many types of tumors, but common ones include glioblastoma, metastatic brain lesions, astrocytomas and meningiomas.
Whether benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous), originating inside (primary) or outside (secondary) the brain or spinal cord, tumors can place pressure on sensitive tissues and impair function. The cause of most primary tumors is unknown.
Tests to diagnose brain and spinal column tumors start with a neurological examination, then may include special imaging techniques, laboratory tests, a spinal tap or a biopsy of tissue from the suspected tumor.
Symptoms of brain tumors include headaches, seizures, nausea and vomiting, vision or hearing problems, behavioral and cognitive problems, motor problems, and balance problems. Spinal cord tumor symptoms include pain, sensory changes, and motor problems. Symptoms generally develop slowly and worsen over time unless treated.
The three most commonly used treatments for these tumors are surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, as well as steroids to reduce swelling. Experimental treatment options may include new drugs, gene therapy, surgery, radiation, biologic immuno-agents that enhance the body’s overall immune system to recognize and fight cancer cells, or a combination of these therapies.
Can we use molecular signatures to develop tumor specific immune therapies as personalized medicine for tumors of the nervous system?