News & Press

May 9, 2013

Dr. Alzate Among First in U.S. to Offer Minimally Invasive Surgery for Deep Subcortical Brain Tumors

Dr. Alzate Among First in U.S. to Offer Minimally Invasive Surgery for Deep Subcortical Brain Tumors

CHICAGO, May 1, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern) is among the first hospitals in the country to offer a new minimally invasive surgery for patients with deep subcortical tumors and cysts. The new approach integrates several advancements in neurosurgery, allowing doctors to resect tumors that were often previously deemed inoperable due to factors such as location within the brain and tumor size. CTCA at Midwestern is the first hospital in Chicago to pioneer the Six Pillar Approach, which resects the tumor through an opening as small as a dime, and is one of only 11 hospitals in the nation currently offering the procedure.

"While there have been tremendous advancements in minimally invasive neurosurgery over the years, there have been few options for resecting cancerous lesions in the deep subcortical regions of the brain," said Juan Alzate, MD, neurosurgeon at CTCA at Midwestern. "This approach uses the technological advancements we have gained over time, such as brain mapping and real-time navigation, and marries them with new tools to help surgeons safely access and remove the brain abnormality."

During the procedure, surgeons access the brain through an opening the size of a dime, and use brain mapping, GPS navigation technology and a tool called the BrainPath to safely move through the natural folds and delicate fibers of the brain to reach the tumor. This allows surgeons to displace tissue rather than cutting it, thereby helping to lower the risk of damage to healthy brain tissue and to lower the risk of complications from surgery. Once in place, the BrainPath creates a clear passageway for surgeons to maintain access to the tumor. They then use a tool the size of a pencil to resect or remove the mass.

"This is an exciting breakthrough because it presents another option for patients with cancer," said Alzate. "As surgeons, our goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible and we need to have a myriad of tools in our arsenal to accomplish successful resection."

To date, fewer than 100 of these procedures have been done across the United States using the Six Pillar Approach. Achieving greater tumor resection can extend life expectancy for some patients. It can also help minimize some of the serious side effects brain tumors can cause including loss of speech, sight and mobility, supporting improved quality of life. This approach is being used to treat patients battling malignant primary brain cancers known as glioblastoma, as well as patients with metastatic cancer that has traveled to the brain from other parts of the body."Patients battling aggressive cancer want time and quality of life," said Alzate. "It is our job to offer leading-edge treatment that not only work to extend their life, but also help provide for a good quality of life. This approach to brain surgery also brings the medical profession one step closer to better understanding the genetic makeup of tumors so we can develop personalized treatments."

During the final phase of the procedure, surgeons collect and preserve tissue for pathological evaluation. Researchers hope to use the samples collected to advance research and the development of personalized treatment options tailored to a patient's unique cancer type. Subcortical brain tumors have been historically difficult to access due to the risks associated with traveling through the brain to the tumor location, which may result in memory loss or disruptions to speech and movement. The Six Pillar Approach significantly reduces these risks by using computer guided navigation and by displacing tissue rather than cutting it as surgeons gain access to the tumor site. Since the surgery is minimally invasive, patients are generally able to leave the hospital within one to two days following surgery, and can resume limited activities soon thereafter.

CTCA at Midwestern offers advanced treatments for primary and metastatic brain and spinal cord cancers. Each patient is seen by a multidisciplinary team, which includes a neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist and experts trained in oncology rehabilitation, naturopathic medicine, mind body medicine and nutrition. This team works together to understand the individual needs of each patient and provide advanced, fully integrated treatments. For more information about neurosurgery at CTCA at Midwestern, visit

About Cancer Treatment Centers of America Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Inc. (CTCA) is a national network of hospitals focusing on complex and advanced stage cancer. CTCA offers a comprehensive, fully integrated approach to cancer treatment and serves patients from all 50 states at facilities located in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. Known for delivering the Mother Standard of care and Patient Empowerment Medicine, CTCA provides patients with information about cancer and their treatment options so they can control their treatment decisions. For more information about CTCA, go to