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Brain and Spine Tumor Treatment

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a world leader in treating childhood brain and spine tumors.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital specializes in treating the most challenging pediatric brain tumors.

St. Jude is committed to:

  • Giving your child the best treatment
  • Improving their chances of survival with the least damaging side effects
  • Helping them lead their best life possible after treatment

When your child has a brain tumor or other type of tumor, you need medical experts who understand:

  • How to fight the disease
  • How to protect your child’s growing body
  • How to cope with life after treatment

You will not face this difficult time alone. Our team of specialists walks with you and your child through each stage of the treatment journey.

Brain and spine tumors treated at St. Jude

We specialize in treating the most challenging pediatric brain and spine tumors. We treat:

Brain and spine tumor clinical trials

Clinical trials are the driving force behind advancing therapy in children with serious diseases. We support clinical trials because this is the way our doctors bring new therapies or explore treatments with fewer side effects.

In severe diseases that have low survival rates, we use clinical trials to try experimental therapy often along with the standard therapy with the goal of improving survival. But in diseases with good survival rates, we also use clinical trials to explore how to reduce the side effects of therapy and improve a child’s life after treatment.

St. Jude clinical trials have produced new, groundbreaking treatments for serious childhood diseases. Our doctors and scientists work together to find better ways to treat patients. This can be a major advantage for coming to St. Jude because the new treatments are being developed on the campus where patients receive their care.

We also take part in trials developed by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium (PBTC). Many of our doctors and scientists play key roles in developing these large studies. They happen at centers across the United States.

If a clinical trial is unavailable, your child may have therapies commonly used to treat patients with brain or spine tumors. These are often referred to as “standard” treatment. If they do not work, patients may be eligible to enter clinical trials using new therapies or existing therapies in a new way.

Why St. Jude for brain and spine tumor treatment?

St. Jude provides the highest quality of care for patients with brain and spine tumors:

  • We bring together medical experts and specially trained staff to care for your child. We also partner with expert brain surgeons (neurosurgeons) at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
  • We have a special team that helps better understand the makeup of the tumor. This team includes doctors and scientists who study:
    • Cancer cells
    • How the cancer happened
    • Current medicines and treatments to kill cancer cells
    • What makes cancer cells grow and what new medicines can stop them
    • New medicines and other therapies to improve how treatments work
  • Our brain and spine tumor clinical trials have led to better therapies in children. These improvements include lower-dose therapies, targeted therapy, and proton therapy. These treatments kill cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. They may lessen side effects that affect brain function after treatment for some types of brain tumors.
  • The St. Jude Proton Therapy Center is the first center in the world that treats only children with this therapy.
  • Along with the treatment studies constantly being developed at St. Jude, the staff also treats patients on studies developed by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium (PBTC), and the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC). Many St. Jude staff members play key roles in developing these studies. They are large studies carried out at multiple centers across the United States. 

More reasons to choose St. Jude for care include:

  • We are consistently ranked among the best childhood cancer centers in the nation by US News & World Report.
  • At St. Jude, we have created an environment where children can be children and families can be together.
  • We lead more clinical trials for childhood cancer than any other hospital in the U.S. 
  • St. Jude is the only National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center just for children. A Comprehensive Cancer Center meets rigorous standards for research to develop new and better approaches to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer.
  • The nurse-to-patient ratio at St. Jude is about 1:3 in hematology and oncology and 1:1 in the Intensive Care Unit.
  • Patients may be able to get expert, compassionate care and treatment closer to their homes through the St. Jude Affiliate Program.

Brain and spine tumor treatment team

Doctors send some of their toughest brain tumor cases to St. Jude because of our expert care team. Your child will have a team of specialists, all on the St. Jude campus, who will develop a treatment plan for your child. They will also guide you on how to care for your child after their treatment. Your child’s care team may include these specialists:

  • Pediatric neuro-oncologists treat cancers in the brain or spine. This doctor may be your child’s primary doctor to coordinate their care.
  • Advanced practice providers (APPs), also called nurse practitioners (NPs) or physician assistants (PAs), are specially trained health care providers who see and prescribe medicines for your child regularly in clinic or in the hospital. Your child’s primary care team will have a doctor, an APP, and a nurse to coordinate care.
  • Nurses (RNs) give specialized care for your child’s brain tumor.
  • Pediatric radiation oncologists treat brain and spinal cord tumors using radiation therapy.
  • Pediatric neurologists diagnose and treat problems with the brain and spinal cord such as headaches and seizures.
  • Neuro-radiologists use imaging tests to monitor disease and learn more about the tumor.
  • Neuropathologists look at tissue samples taken from the brain and spine to diagnose your child’s disease.
  • Pediatric neuro-psychologists treat and help prevent learning or behavior problems that develop from the tumor or treatments.
  • Pediatric neuroendocrinologists treat and help prevent problems with your child’s hormones. Hormones are made by the body and affect how it works. Tumors and treatments can change hormone levels.
  • Anesthesiologists give special medicines to relieve pain during surgery or procedures.
  • Social workers help your child and your family with daily life with services like counseling.
  • Rehabilitation therapists help your child cope with the effects of illness and treatment side effects.
  • Child life specialists use play to help your child cope with their treatment and being in the hospital.
  • Clinical dietitians create diets for patients so they can get the nutrients they need to be healthy.
  • Clinical research staff help manage and perform clinical trials and collect information to learn more about disease treatment.

Meet your brain tumor treatment team

What to expect during your visit

How long you stay at St. Jude depends on the treatment your child needs. We will stay in touch with the local doctor who referred you. Our nurse coordinator can answer any questions you have.

To diagnose and treat your child, we may need to get a sample of their brain tumor through surgery. Surgery can mean:

  • A tumor resection where all or most of the tumor is removed
  • A biopsy, where a small piece is removed

If surgery has already been done, then we will request that tumor sample from your doctor. We will study the sample in the lab to diagnose your child’s disease.

When seen at St. Jude, your child will need tests to diagnose their tumor, to see if it has spread, and to measure their health. These tests may include:

These tests help your care team learn about:

  • Your child’s tumor
  • If the disease is spreading
  • Possible effects of their illness on their body

Based on the tumor sample and other tests, your care team will make a treatment plan for your child and discuss it with your family physician. Your child may need treatment such as:

Brain tumor surgery is done at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Other treatments may be given at St. Jude or may be available closer to home at a St. Jude affiliate clinic.

Second opinions

While it can be reassuring to get a second opinion, do not delay therapy too long. Once therapy has started, you will need to continue the therapy until it is complete. Gather the information you need and ask questions about treatment options before your child starts therapy.

Follow-up care

After your child is treated, they may need rehabilitation therapy and follow-up care when they go home. Your care team will work with your family physician to help manage your child’s care and develop a survivorship care plan after treatment. In some cases, you may be able to work with a St. Jude Affiliate clinic if one is closer to your home and treats your child’s problem.

Learn more

You can start the referral process by letting your physician know you would like a second opinion from St. Jude. They can contact our 24-hour beeper service or contact our brain tumor coordinator. You may also contact the brain tumor coordinator directly with questions.

See our brain tumor eligibility requirements for more information.

Physician / Patient Referral Office

Call: 1-888-226-4343 (toll-free) or 901-595-4055 (local)  | Email:
Fax: 901-595-4011 | 24-hour pager: 1-800-349-4334

Contact the Brain Tumor Team directly:

Submit brain tumor contact form

Contact the Surgery Team directly: