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Brain Cancer Treatment – 2020 Alternative Options

Brain cancer[1] is the proliferation of cells in the brain that form a mass called a tumor. Tumors can be either benign or malignant. Cancer means malignant. Most brain tumors begin somewhere else withinside the body and spinal cord and spread to the brain called metastatic brain tumors. The primary brain tumor begins in the brain tissue and rarely spreads to other tissues.

It is vital to know and understand that the treatment of a brain tumor should be personalized. While brain cancer treatments are usually standardized, complications a patient may be experiencing depends on their age, overall health, and extent of brain tumor.

According to the American Cancer Society[2], approximately no more than 1% of people have a chance to develop malignant brain tumors. Brain tumors once had a very low survival rate, but recent medical advances have increased the chances of survival[3]. In this health guide, you will have a general view of how to diagnose brain cancer, and the different types of treatment for brain tumors as well. Let’s check it out!

Brain Cancer Diagnosis 

There are many different tests to confirm and diagnose brain cancer. You may refer to different doctors working together such as neurologists and oncologists. They will assess your symptoms and medical history to provide the best possible treatment.

Many people tend to ignore the early signals of brain cancer without knowing that they can develop cancer. They should be encouraged to undergo brain examination to determine whether there is a tumor present, which means an MRI or CT scan.

According to the National Cancer Institute[4] statistics, 6.4 out of 100,000 diagnosed both men and women with brain cancer every year. Based on 2017 data, there were 168,494 living with brain and spinal cord cancer. or another nervous system cancer in the United States.

The first step in diagnosing brain cancer is to evaluate the symptoms of the individual. If the symptoms show an indication of brain cancer, then doctors can perform tests to confirm the diagnosis. They include the magnetic exploration of resonance imaging (MRI), computed axial tomography (CAT or CT), and positron emission tomography (PET).

Brain Cancer Treatment Options – The Impact Of Technology

The treatment of primary brain cancer will be different from the treatment of metastatic brain tumors. Metastatic brain tumors will be treated based on the original cancer site.

There are over 120 types of brain tumors[5] and nervous system tumors as classified by WHO. They differ in the cell type (cancerous or benign), in the place where cells came from, how aggressive tumor cells are, and many other criteria. In addition, proper treatment for these tumors depends on its size and location, as well as its type and grade. Another factor is age and general health.

Brain Tumor Surgery

Surgery is a common technique for brain tumor treatment. The tumor-removal method may be in use to improve some of the neurological symptoms. Surgery may also help relieve symptoms caused by brain tumors, particularly those caused by a buildup of pressure in the skull (Intracranial Pressure)[6]. These side effects may include headaches, blurring of vision, nausea, and vomiting.

Sometimes, surgery may be impossible for diverse reasons. Sometimes because the cells are located in a place where the surgeon cannot reach (for example, places near vital structures), or a patient’s health doesn’t allow for surgery. In such cases, other treatment options need to be taken into consideration.

Nowadays, advanced techniques are available for surgery of the brain like minimally invasive and cortical mapping[7]. Doctor may identify the parts of the brain tissue that are responsible for controlling the senses, speech, and motor skills. Advanced imaging devices may provide the right tools to map the exact location of the tumor.

Chemotherapy for Brain Cancer

Chemotherapy will be useful for cancerous brain tumors. The type of brain tumor will determine whether chemotherapy is in use or not.

Chemotherapy makes use of medicinal drugs to break most cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs may be given orally as a pill or injected into a vein (intravenous), or placed directly into or near the cancerous tissue. Tempiozolomide (Temodar)[8] is a common drug to treat these kinds of tumors, which is considered a pill. Using chemotherapy drugs also depends on the types of brain cancer.

Radiation Treatment for Brain Cancer

The Radiation therapy[9] for the brain may use a high dose of radiation power beams, which includes X-rays or protons, to kill most cancer cells. Radiation therapy may come from a device outside of your body (external beam radiation), or, in very rare cases, radiation can be placed inside your body near your brain tumor (brachytherapy[10]).

A newer form of radiotherapy using proton beams[11] were under study for people with brain tumors. Proton therapy lessens the risk of side effects along with radiation and also for the tumors located in the sensitive areas of the brain.

Radiation therapy may also be an option to treat brain tumor cells that is unremovable or for brain metastases (tumors that have spread to the entire brain from another part of the body). 

In contrast, the side effects of radiation therapy for brain cancer may depend on the type and radiation dose you received. Commonly patients may experience side effects including tiredness, memory deprivation, headache, and scalp discomfort immediately during or after the procedure.

Targeted therapy

In addition to standard chemotherapy, targeted therap[12] is a treatment that aims at tumor-specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to the growth and survival of tumors, such as blood supply. Such treatment blocks tumor growth and limits the damage to healthy brain tissue.

Stereotactic radiosurgery

Stereotactic radiosurgery[13] (Surgery radiation therapy) uses targeted radiation high energy beams to treat much of the tumor and other problems in the brain and spinal cord, as well as other parts of the body as well. 

It is not surgery in the traditional way, because there is no incision. Instead, stereotypical radiosurgery uses 3D images to direct a high dose of radiation to the affected area with little effect on surrounding healthy tissue. Radiotherapy is a treatment choice for many types of cancer.

Whole-brain radiation therapy 

This therapy[14] is the treatment of choice for patients with multiple brain tumors. Radiation may treat the entire brain, even to healthy tissue of the brain. However, due to its toxicity, it is not recommended as the first choice for brain cancer treatment.

brain cancer treatment

New Alternative Brain Tumor Treatments

Killing Cancer Cells With Ebola Viruses 

Glioblastomas are incurable type brain tumors that might be bold to treat and often fatal. Scientists from Yale University used some of the Ebola virus genes to address this form of cancer.

On the 12th of February, Anthony Van den pol professor of neurosurgery at Yale University says “Ironically, one of the world’s most deadly viruses could be useful in treating one of the most dangerous brain cancers”, Journal of Virology.

By protecting the Ebola virus from the immune system and take advantage of the weakness of most cancers.

Unlike any other normal cells, there is a large portion is cancer cells that cannot generate an immune system in response against invaders such as viruses.

Somehow, other scientists including Van den Pol, develop and create methods to reduce the risk of using viruses that cause potentially dangerous infections. They combined and created genes from different viruses by infecting cancer cells without harming normal cells.

One out of seven genes from the Ebola virus helps to avoid the response of the immune system which greatly contributes to mortality. Van den Pol more becomes interested in it.

Van den Pol and Xue Zhang first author of the study, continue to use e of genetic virus-containing glycoprotein with a mucin line domain MLD. It is one of seven genes of the Ebola virus. Mucin line domain performs a function to hide Ebola from immune system response. They found that MLD selectively targets and spoils fatal glioblastoma brain tumors, by injecting a chimeric virus into mice brains.

Oncolytic Virus Therapy

Viral oncolytic therapy[15] could be the next big breakthrough in new cancer treatments following the success of immune checkpoint inhibitors. An oncolytic virus is defined as a natural or genetically engineered virus that selectively replicates in and removes many tumor cells without harming normal tissue.

Viruses are debris that infects or get into our cells and utilize the cell’s genetic machinery to make copies of themselves and then spread to the surrounding uninfected cells. Infection by certain viruses such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) has involved in the development of certain cancers.

Recently, more viruses are in use to target and attack specific tumors. Most  viruses, however not all, including oncolytic viruses represent an advantage for treating most cancers for several reasons:

  • The cancer cells often have impaired antiviral defense mechanisms that make them vulnerable to infection.
  • These natural viruses can be engineered to provide beneficial properties, including a decrease in their ability to infect healthy cells; giving them the ability to deliver therapeutic cargo molecules to tumors and immune-boosting properties once they infect the tumor cells.
  • After infection, the virus is oncolytic and can cause tumor cells to explode. Killing tumor cells releases cancer antigens. These antigens can then stimulate an immune response that can locate and eliminate tumor cells remaining nearby and potentially elsewhere in the body.

Conclusion

A plan for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer may be a key component of a brain cancer management plan. The main goal is to treat cancer patients and prolong their life considerably and ensure a high quality of life.

Furthermore, the program should include an awareness-raising component, to teach patients, family, and community members about cancer risk factors and therefore the need for taking preventive measures to avoid developing cancer.

If you’ve got brain cancer, it’s important to make sure that you simply discuss all of your treatment options with a doctor. It must relate to an early detection program so that cases are detected at an early stage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks of removal of the brain tumor?

Surgical intervention used to remove part of the brain with tumor carries risks such as hemorrhage. Other risks associated depend on where the tumor is located.

Does all the brain tumor are cancerous?

Some brain cancer is cancerous but not at all. A tumor that grows and spreads quickly called malignant or cancerous. However, one called benign tumors is not cancerous.

Is brain tumor genetic?

Some brain tumors are not transmissible. Although a few hereditary syndromes including tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis had been connected to certain forms of brain tumors. In gliomas, for example, only 5% are considered hereditary[16]. Still, it takes a lot of research to better understand the causes and risk factors for brain cancer.

Common symptoms of brain cancer?

Seizures and headaches are common symptoms of brain tumors. Other symptoms may include nausea and vomiting due to increased intracranial pressure.

How fast can a brain tumor form?

The rate of tumor growth in the brain depends on how aggressive the tumor is. Level IV glioblastomas can grow by 1.4% in a day[17] ,while grade I tumors grow slowly and are unlikely to spread.

Definition metastatic brain tumor?

Brain metastasis or secondary brain tumors are cancer cells that have spread from the primary tumor in other areas of the body and now grow in the brain. Lung, breast, and skin are the most common primary sites for brain metastases. It is estimated that 15% of patients[18] with brain cancer in the US suffered a brain metastasis.

How many people are diagnosed with brain cancer each year?

Approximately 80,000[19] children and adults are diagnosed each year with a primary brain tumor

What is the life expectancy for someone with a brain tumor?

In general, the life expectancy of a person suffering from brain cancer is described as the percentage of people who are still alive five years after being diagnosed with a tumor. The overall survival rate[20] at 5 years for non-malignant tumors was 91.5% compared to 35.8% for malignant tumors.

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  2. American Cancer Society. (2020). Key Statistics for Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors. Available from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/about/key-statistics.html
  3. Kimberly R. Porter, Bridget J. McCarthy, Michael L. Berbaum. (2011). Conditional Survival of All Primary Brain Tumor Patients by Age, Behavior, and Histology, 36(4), 230–239. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665939/
  4. Cancer Stat Facts: Brain and Other Nervous System Cancer. Available from: https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/brain.html
  5. Sajid Iqbal, M. Usman Ghani Khan, Tanzila Saba. (2017). Computer-assisted brain tumor type discrimination using magnetic resonance imaging features, 8(1), 5–28. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6208555/
  6. Venessa L. Pinto; Prasanna Tadi; Adebayo Adeyinka. (2020). Increased Intracranial Pressure. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482119/
  7. Wellingson S Paiva, Erich T Fonoff, Marco A Marcolin. (2012). Cortical mapping with navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation in low-grade glioma surgery, 8, 197–201. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3363137/
  8. Wei Zhu, Li Zhou, Jia-Qi Qian. (2014). Temozolomide for treatment of brain metastases: A review of 21 clinical trials, 5(1), 19–27. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3920177/
  9. SR Mehta. (2011). Radiotherapy: Basic Concepts and Recent Advances, 66(2), 158–162. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4920949/
  10. Bhargava Chitti, Sharad Goyal, Jonathan H. Sherman. (2020). The role of brachytherapy in the management of brain metastases: a systematic review, 12(1), 67–83. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7073344/
  11. W P Levin, H Kooy, J S Loeffler. (2005). Proton beam therapy, 93(8), 849–854. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2361650/
  12. N.S Ningaraj, B.P Salimath, U.T Sankpal. (2007). Targeted Brain Tumor Treatment-Current Perspectives, 2: 197–207. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155235/
  13. Michael Brada, Garth Cruickshank. (1999). Radiosurgery for brain tumours, 318(7181), 411–412. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1114886/
  14. Emory McTyre, Jacob Scott, and Prakash Chinnaiyan. (2013). Whole brain radiotherapy for brain metastasis, 4(Suppl 4), S236–S244. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3656558/
  15. Hiroshi Fukuhara, Yasushi Ino and Tomoki Todo. (2016). Oncolytic virus therapy: A new era of cancer treatment at dawn, 107(10), 1373–1379. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5084676/
  16. Deborah T. Blumenthal, Lisa A. Cannon-Albright. (2008). Familiality in brain tumors, 71(13): 1015–1020. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2676956/
  17. Anne Line Stensjøen, Ole Solheim, Kjell Arne Kvistad. (2015). Growth dynamics of untreated glioblastomas in vivo, 17(10), 1402–1411. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4578579/
  18. Megan J. McKee, Kevin Keith,  Allison M. Deal. (2016). A Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Brain Metastases Clinic: The University of North Carolina Experience, 21(1), 16–20. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4709216/
  19. Parth Thakkar, Brian D. Greenwald and Palak Patel. (2020). Rehabilitation of Adult Patients with Primary Brain Tumors: A Narrative Review, 10(8), 492. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7464729/
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Healthcanal Staff
Written by:
Healthcanal Staff

HealthCanal Editorial team is a team of high standard writers, who qualified the strict entrance test of Health Canal. The team involves in both topic researching and writting, which are under supervision and controlled by medical doctors of medical team.