Brain & Spinal Tumors

Brain and spinal cord tumors represent the most common solid tumors seen in children and second most common group of pediatric cancers after the leukemias.  Approximately 3000 children will be diagnosed with a brain or spinal tumor in the United States each year.  Since the brain is made up of many different types of cells, many different types of brain tumors can occur.Most children who develop a brain tumor have no apparent risk factors for the development of a tumor.  There are a small number of children who appear to have specific genetic risks for certain types of brain tumors. 

Neuro-Oncology (Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors) Program

The management of children with brain and spinal cord tumors is extremely complex. Pediatric brain cancers can be stubborn, and typically do not respond to traditional chemotherapy and radiation. in part because the brain is somewhat protected from medications (the blood-brain barrier), in part because surgery in the brain has to be quite refined to minimize injury to brain tissue, and in part because radiation treatment to the brain can cause injury to normal brain tissue.  To successfully manage and treat children with these tumors it takes a team of practitioners specifically focused on this area. The multidisciplinary Pediatric Neuro-Oncology program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore is noted for the comprehensive care that is provided to all children diagnosed with a brain or spinal cord tumor and their families. Each year our practitioners treat between 80-100 children affected by these cancers tumors. A similar number of children's cases are reviewed as second opinions sent from around the world.

Subspecialists from a variety of disciplines at Johns Hopkins participate in a weekly tumor pediatric neuro-oncology conference, where each child’s case is presented and discussed in-depth, and an individually tailored treatment plan is worked out. These conferences include experts from the following areas:

  • Pediatric neuro-oncology
  • Pediatric neurosurgery
  • Pediatric radiation oncology
  • Pediatric neurology
  • Neuropathology
  • Neuroradiology
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Social work