Major Changes Coming in Treatment of Brain Cancer; Symposium on Saturday Gives Physicians Glimpse of Innovative Treatment Options for Brain Cancer Patients

Jess Gomez



Brain cancer is one of the most devastating forms of cancer and also one of the most difficult to treat, but amazing new technologies are on the horizon, giving hope to patients and physicians.

Dozens of doctors, nurses, and other medical providers will have a chance to learn more about these high-tech advances, as well as the best treatments currently available, at the 32nd annual Cowan Cancer Symposium, Saturday, Jan. 25, 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at LDS Hospital.

Note: News media are invited to cover. Use the northwest Education Center entrance.

“There are big changes coming to the way we treat brain tumors,” says Paula Rauschkolb, DO, the director of neuro-oncology at Intermountain Medical Center and a presenter at the symposium. “The traditional approach we’ve used since 2005 is mediocre at best. It barely increases survival.”

Future treatment options sound like something from a sci-fi movie:
• Personalized vaccines are being created by combining an individual’s own cells — both healthy and tumorous — to stimulate the immune system to attack his or her specific tumor cells, with minimal side effects.
• Nanoparticles are being developed that are so small, they’ll be able to carry cancer-fighting drugs through the blood-brain barrier — the body’s natural defense mechanism that keeps toxins in the bloodstream from entering the brain.
• Targeted therapies will bring more precision to treatment so that chemotherapy doesn’t affect the entire body, including healthy cells, but instead will attack only diseased tissues.

Brain cancer is a rare form of cancer, but one of the most deadly, says symposium co-director Vilija Avizonis, MD, a radiation oncologist at Intermountain Medical Center. One reason is that physicians have fewer treatment options because the blood-brain barrier prevents chemotherapy from reaching tumors.

“This year’s symposium will give medical experts from Utah and the Intermountain West a chance to learn the best ways to help their patients from the very brightest minds in the field,” says Dr. Avizonis.

Speakers include renowned physician researchers from the Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and the University of Utah.

The Cowan Cancer Symposium is named for the late Leland R. Cowan, MD, a pioneering surgical oncologist and radiation therapist whose career spanned nearly 50 years, most of it at LDS Hospital.
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