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Brain and Spine Tumors Program

As a leading provider in cancer care for children, the Brain and Spine Tumors Program at CHOC provides your child with the most leading-edge and comprehensive care. Our team of highly trained, multidisciplinary neuro-oncology specialists provide the most advanced and effective treatments for pediatric tumors of the brain and spine while offering family-centered care that focuses on the needs of the child and family as a whole.

To make the treatment process a little less confusing and easier to navigate, the neuro-oncology team has assembled an education packet that our patients and their families find very helpful throughout treatment and recovery.

Download our Brain and Spine Tumors Program Education Packet

What We Treat

patient listening to doctor's heartbeat

Children’s tumors are very different than adult tumors and must be treated with specific pediatric protocols. Our experience in exclusively treating children, teens and young adults makes us the experts in the evaluation and treatment of all forms of common childhood and adolescent brain and spinal cord tumors. The neuro-oncology team treats all pediatric tumors of the brain and spine including, but not limited to:

  • Astrocytoma or glioma (low grade and high grade)
  • Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor (ATRT)
  • Brain stem glioma
  • Choroid plexus tumors
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) or diffuse midline glioma
  • Embryonal tumor
  • Ependymoma
  • Ganglioglioma
  • Germ cell tumor
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
  • Medulloblastoma (MDL)
  • Neurofibromatosis 1 and 2
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • Optic pathway glioma
  • Pineal tumor
  • Primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET)
  • Schwannoma
  • Spinal cord tumor

Clinical Trials and Research

The experts at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC are dedicated to providing the very latest treatments and in engaging in the research furthering the advance of treatment both now and in the future.

Children’s cancers are very different than adult cancers and must be treated with specific pediatric cancer protocols. Our experience in exclusively treating children, teens and young adults makes us the experts in the evaluation and treatment of all forms of common childhood and adolescent cancers. We are dedicated to administering the very latest pediatric cancer treatment options. A majority of our protocols come from the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a national organization funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Our relationship with the COG makes us the only medical center in the southwestern United States offering COG Phase I clinical trials.

Learn more about our ongoing research and the clinical trials available at the Cancer Institute.

Multidisciplinary Team of Neuro-oncology Experts

The Brain and Spine Tumors Program at CHOC brings together a multidisciplinary team of pediatric experts, one of only a handful of such teams in the region. Our brain and spine team combines neurologists, who specialize in disorders that affect nerves and the nervous system, with oncologists, who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of tumors. Brain and spine tumors affect the nervous system, but still require treatment for tumors, thus combining these two areas of expertise into one treatment team.

Beyond the neuro-oncology team, CHOC offers a comprehensive approach to every child’s treatment. Our patients have access to virtually any service they need under one roof—including access to other specializations within CHOC. This team approach allows our specialists to communicate easily with one another about every aspect of a patient’s needs, providing children and their families with a well-rounded treatment plan.

In our Brain and Spine Tumor Program, your child’s care team may consist of the following specialists:

  • Neurosurgeon
  • Neuro-oncologist
  • Neurologist
  • Neuro-radiologist
  • Radiation oncologist
  • Endocrinologist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Case coordinator
  • Child life specialist
  • Nutritionist
  • Oncology pharmacist
  • Physical therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech & language therapist
  • Dietitian
  • Social workers
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric oncologist

Multimodal Brain and Spine Tumors Treatment

At CHOC, we want children to have the best and most advanced treatment options available. Our neuro-oncology team is focused on providing a multimodal treatment plan for children with a brain or spine tumor. Multimodal treatment combines various methods of tumor therapy to ensure your child receives the best outcomes from care.

  • Chemotherapy treatment: Drugs destroy tumor cells to keep them from growing and dividing. These medicines work to prevent the spread of cancer cells throughout the entire body rather than in one specific location.
  • Targeted therapy: Drugs that target the genes and proteins that control cancer cell growth, division, and spread. Targeted therapies can block the signals that tell cancer cells to grow and divide, prevent cancer cells from living too long, and/or destroy cancer cells altogether.
  • Immunotherapy: A type of treatment that causes the immune system to recognize and destroy the tumor. This type of therapy does not cause the typical side effects common with chemotherapy and radiation, as it relies on the body’s own immune system to identify cancer and treat it.
  • Radiation treatment: X-ray beams damage the DNA of the cancer cell to shrink and kill the tumor. It’s used to target a specific area where cancerous cells are located.
  • Surgical treatment: Neurosurgery is performed to remove or reduce brain and spinal cord tumors. CHOC uses minimally invasive surgery techniques to limit the opening of skin and muscle during surgery, resulting in quicker recovery, minimal scarring and other benefits. Minimally invasive surgeries can include:

Innovative Brain and Spine Tumor Treatment at CHOC

CHOC is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care and the best possible outcomes through cutting-edge treatments. We are one of the few hospitals in the nation to offer laser ablation, a relatively recent advancement in neurosurgery. This leading surgical option for brain and spine tumors provides a minimally invasive procedure that allows surgeons to reach difficult areas of the brain with less risk to patients.

The multidisciplinary team at CHOC also allows for innovative collaboration across various pediatric units. With one of the most advanced epilepsy programs in the country, the CHOC Brain and Spine Tumor Program is also highly equipped for the specialized treatment of tumors that cause epilepsy.

Brain and Spine Tumor Treatment: What to Expect

From the start, the Brain and Spine Tumors Program team works closely with patients and their families to ensure they understand each stage of the treatment process. The journey you and your child may expect during neuro-oncology treatment could include:

1. Your initial visit will include meeting with meeting with neuro-oncologists and discussing about the diagnosis and treatment plans, as well as getting know you and your family. Based on your child’s diagnosis and biopsy results, our team of specialists will develop a tailored treatment plan that may include targeting therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or tumor surgery.

2. The neuro-oncology team discusses your case in the multidisciplinary tumor board, which includes other specialists like neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neuro-radiologists and neuropathologists.

3. The initial meeting can address diagnostic tests to get a view of the affected area. These tests can consist of:

4. Diagnosis in many cases also includes a biopsy of a child’s tumor. A biopsy is a surgical procedure where a sample of tissue is taken to be tested in a lab to identify conditions and diagnose cancer.

5. Patients will undergo regular assessments and check-ups to track their response to therapy throughout and after the course of treatment. Our team will use all resources available to minimize any possible side effects resulting from the treatments.

6. After a child undergoes tumor treatment, CHOC focuses on the recovery process. This includes working with a neuropsychologist to help children and families transition back to regular day-to-day activities after tumor treatment.

7. Long-term follow-up care for brain and spine tumors can last for several years after treatment, but typically becomes less and less frequent as time passes. After 5 years, your child will be transitioned to the ACTS program (After Cancer Treatment Survivorship program).

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Meet the Brain and Spinal Tumors Program Team

Sato, Mariko MD

Specialty: Oncology
Office: 714-509-8636

Dr. Sato is a board certified pediatric oncologist at CHOC Hospital in Orange County.

Crawford, John R.

Specialty: Neurology
Appointments: 888-770-2462
Office: 714-509-7601

Dr. John R. Crawford is board certified in child neurology and treats kids and teens in Orange County.

Pathare, Jody NP

Specialty: Nurse Practitioner – Oncology

Jody Pathare is a nurse practitioner who specializes in oncology medicine. She provides care for kids and teens with cancer at CHOC.