Treaments may help brain tumor patients


April 16, 2012 9:35:45 AM PDT
There is a new treatment for people living with potentially deadly brain tumors.

A new procedure is letting doctors operate on what was once considered inoperable; giving patients a better chance at a longer life.

"I didn't see myself being an older man. I didn't plan on 40," Erik Humphrey told Ivanhoe.

Erik Humphrey never thought he'd get this card. He was diagnosed with a grade three brain cancer and developed a tumor the size of two golf balls.

"I was waiting to die. All I knew is it was bad," Erik said.

Living with this for more than three years is rare, but neurosurgeon doctor Kris Smith of Barrow Neurological Institute recommended Erik try something that could give him more time called subpial resection. It focuses on functional divisions in the brain called the gyri.

"When a tumor occurs, it usually occurs on this type of Glioma, within one gyrus, "Dr. Smith said.

The aggressive technique removes not just the tumor, but the entire gyrus involved.

"My belief is that you have to be as aggressive as possible getting to that natural border. If a gyrus is already infiltrated and sacrificed just take the whole thing, don't leave any of it behind," Dr. Smith said.

Doctor Smith says the subpial approach and months of daily radiation, coupled with a year of treatment with a powerful new chemo drug called Temodar, can give people like Erik a better chance at a longer life.

It's been nine years, three times as long as Erik's best survival odds predicted. Although the brain surgery cost him some of the movement in his left arm and leg, to him it's a small price to pay for more time. Doctor Smith is one of the only doctors in the U.S. using the subpial resection approach to fight malignant brain tumors. He's currently teaching the technique to surgeons from around the world.