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Treatment Options

Patients at the Northwestern Medicine Lou and Jean Malnati Brain Tumor Institute of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Memorial Hospital receive care from a multidisciplinary team of experts who meet weekly, sharing their knowledge and experience to develop the optimum treatment plan. Many factors, including the type, size, and location of a tumor, are considered to determine the most effective strategy, which often involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, radiosurgery and chemotherapy, including novel agents that work on tumor biology or in conjunction with the immune system. 

Our goal is to provide each patient undergoing treatment with the best possible quality of life, in addition to the best possible care.

Neurosurgical Oncology

The institute's surgical team performs an average of 500 major brain tumor operations per year. They treat patients with both benign and malignant tumors of the brain, and they have special expertise in cranial base surgery, transsphenoidal surgery, functional and stereotactic surgery, and cerebrovascular surgery.

Our surgeons utilize state-of-the-art equipment including:

  • A variety of intraoperative microscopes
  • A frameless stereotactic unit for intraoperative tumor localization
  • Intraoperative cortical mapping
  • BRW, CRW, and Leksell frame-driven stereotactic systems for stereotactic-guided biopsies and tumor localization
  • The surgical endoscope for intraventricular and pituitary tumors
  • A variety of intraoperative lasers, and the cavitronic ultrasonic aspirator for tumor resection
  • Brain and spinal cord electrical monitoring to prevent damage to normal tissue

The frame-based and frameless stereotactic equipment allows tumor biopsies and resections to be performed utilizing smaller, more precise scalp and bone openings than conventional surgery. Functional MRI is routinely utilized in the preoperative planning of surgery to identify eloquent areas of brain that should be preserved during an operative procedure.


In recent years, many novel and effective therapies have been developed for treating brain cancer. Our physicians have been instrumental in developing the current standard of care for the treatment of brain tumors, and they continue to innovate advanced new therapeutic approaches.

As a national leader in the treatment of brain tumors, our patients benefit from the newest and best treatment options and resources available. You may be eligible for one of the ongoing clinical trials being conducted by the Malnati Brain Tumor Institute to test newer therapies.

Depending on the type of brain tumor and the treatment plan designed, you may receive treatment with chemotherapy and/or biologic agents. These treatments may be administered in a number of ways, including:

  • Oral
  • Intravenous
  • Stem-cell transplant for certain tumors

In addition to conventional treatments, the institute also offers innovative, investigational brain tumor treatment such as:

  • Small molecule therapies
  • Growth modifier treatment
  • Intra-tumoral treatments

Radiation Oncology

Our radiation oncologists are leading experts in treating brain tumors with radiation therapy. They specialize in delivering radiation to the brain and have pioneered many important technological advances in the field. Visit our Radiation Oncology Center page to learn more.

Patients receiving radiation therapy may benefit from:

  • Standard external beam radiation therapy (EBRT)
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • The Gamma Knife (radiosurgery)
  • Proton Beam Radiation