Brain Tumor Program

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Pediatric brain tumors are a group of diseases in which there is abnormal growth of cells of the brain. This abnormal cell growth can be low grade (very slow growing cancer cells) or high grade (contains cancer cells with a faster growth rate that often spread to adjacent normal tissues). The brain controls memory, learning, movement, the senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch) and emotion. Other than leukemia, brain tumors are the most common cancer that occurs in children.

The staff of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program provides comprehensive, compassionate diagnosis and care for children and young adults with brain tumors. The care and long-term multidisciplinary follow-up of children with brain tumors or neurological complications of cancer are coordinated through the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Department.

Our goal is to have our patients get through therapy with as normal a life as possible and to emerge from therapy knowledgeable about how to maintain their health.

The approximately 50 pediatric brain tumors diagnosed each year at Cleveland Clinic are cared for in the home-like environment of the Pediatric Oncology Clinic and child and adolescent units at our Children’s Hospital, all of which are newly renovated and expanded. Pediatric cancer physicians, nurse practitioners, a pediatric psychologist, child life specialists, social workers and oncology nurses treat patients in an environment that best suits the needs of the children and their families.

Our team follows more than 300 patients from infancy through 21 years of age.

The cure rate for cancer in children has improved greatly in the last two decades - largely because of treatment in national clinical trials. The prognosis for children and young adults with certain brain tumors has improved substantially, increasing from only 10 to 20 percent of patients achieving sustained remission twenty years ago to nearly 80 percent today.

However, there are a significant proportion of patients with high grade and/or metastatic tumors for whom effective therapy remains elusive. Clinical trials are designed to test new, potentially better therapies against standard approaches in hopes of finding better ways to treat pediatric brain tumors. Participation in Children’s Oncology Group and other cooperative trials ensures access for both children and young adults to the latest chemotherapy protocols. Trials are ongoing in most parts of the country for pediatric brain tumors.

The good news is that Children's Oncology Group clinical trials are closely overseen by a data monitoring committee, so that in real time, if one treatment is found to be better than another, the treating physicians are notified immediately, and your child's treatment will be changed right away if necessary. Meanwhile, our researchers work toward the development of innovative treatments such as biological therapy to ensure continued cutting-edge care.

Treatment for pediatric brain tumors depends on the type, grade and location of the tumor within the brain, your child's age and overall health. You may choose to have your child entered on a clinical trial or your child may receive treatment that is considered standard therapy based on its effectiveness in patients in past clinical trials. Because treatment of pediatric brain tumors poses significant challenges to the child and family, our team is there with a comprehensive approach.

Our pediatric neurosurgeons have extensive expertise in biopsy and resection of the most challenging low and high grade brain tumors. In the Rose Ella Burkhardt Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center, radiation oncologists offer an array of state-of-the-art treatment options for young patients, including the Novalis® radiosurgery, Gamma Knife® radiosurgery, Intrabeam intraoperative radiotherapy, 3-D conformal radiation therapy, AutoLITT and brachytherapy.

Cleveland Clinic pediatric neurologists also run one of the largest neurofibromatosis clinics in the world. Neurofibromatosis is a disorder of the nervous system. Cleveland Clinic’s neuro-oncology team treats many of these children who harbor brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerve tumors. The Pediatric Brain Tumor Program participates in chemotherapy clinical trials to treat some patients with neurofibromatosis.

We have also established a national registry for children diagnosed with atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT), a very rare and aggressive pediatric tumor, to provide a voluntary, free, confidential, central database of information and outcomes; to provide information necessary for the optimal management; and to provide physicians, patients and parents with information about the disease.

Care Coordination

Children are so much more than just their diagnosis. Here at the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, every child's life matters.

When you walk through our clinic doors, we understand that you have many questions and need answers. Through our process of coordinated care, we become your medical home for as long as you and your child need us. We are available and you will find comfort in knowing that a team of people will help you navigate the maze of healthcare and a friendly familiar voice will always greet you on the phone.

Dr. Tanya Tekautz and Dr. Violette Recinos, Pediatric Brain Tumor Program co-directors, provide over 25 years of combined medical experience. They bring experience with them from all over the country and are nationally known in their fields with multiple publications in professional journals.

Caring for a patient with a brain tumor is a complex and multidisciplinary endeavor. Children who have been diagnosed with brain tumors require doctors and services from different specialties through treatment and beyond. All children are unique individuals and require a holistic and global plan of care.

We have access to all the specialties necessary to fully treat a child or adolescent with a brain tumor. These areas include: neurology, developmental pediatric psychology, neuro-oncology, radiation oncology, neuroradiology, dietary support, physical and occupational therapy, social work, pediatric pharmacology, orthopedics, endocrinology and child life specialists. 

Our MRI scanners are state-of-the-art and have the ability to see smaller sections of the brain than the average MRI scanner. Specially trained pediatric neuroradiologists use these scans to identify tumors much earlier than most hospitals. The consistency afforded by this practice allows for the highest standards of care available. This is standard of care for each of our patients.

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Children’s Cancer Answer Line

To schedule an evaluation with a Burkhardt Brain Tumor Center pediatric specialist, please call our Appointment Center at 216.636.5860, or toll-free at 866.588.2264.