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James Hansen, MD, MS, in honor of Brain Tumor Awareness Month

May 08, 2024

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in caring for patients with brain tumors?

The brain is extraordinarily complex, and we still have so much to learn about how it works. In patients with brain tumors, we face a critical challenge in designing the best treatments that strike the right balance between attacking the tumor and protecting the surrounding normal brain. Advances in surgery, radiosurgery, and targeted molecular agents are helping to achieve the best possible outcomes with the least possible toxicity, and this is why multidisciplinary care by an expert team of neurosurgeons and oncologists is so important in brain tumor therapy.

There has been some promising research in regards to targeted treatment of brain tumors. What recent developments are you most excited about?

The brain is protected by a barrier that prevents toxins in the blood from finding their way into the brain. This “blood-brain barrier” is normally a good thing, but it is a problem when we want to use drugs to treat tumors in the brain because the drugs have a hard time making it across the barrier. This is partly why surgery and radiation therapy dominated brain tumor treatment strategies for so many years. But now, advances in our understanding of the barrier and in strategies of drug design have revealed new opportunities to use drugs to hit the right targets inside brain tumors to shut them down. I have never been more excited and optimistic about the future benefits of blood-brain barrier-crossing drugs for our patients.

As we honor Brain Tumor Awareness Month, what do you want our patients and families to pause and remember?

Every patient journey is unique. Please know that in good times or challenging times, you are never battling this disease alone. As a member of the Yale Gamma Knife team, I have the privilege of working alongside the world’s best neurosurgeons, oncologists, radiation physicists, radiation therapists, nurses, and researchers, and I am overwhelmed by their dedication to helping patients fight against brain tumors every single day.

Submitted by Eliza Folsom on May 02, 2024