Radiation Therapy for Metastatic Brain Tumors

Radiation therapy is an important part of treatment for metastatic brain cancer. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we’re experts at using the most advanced techniques. We can deliver precise doses of radiation directly to brain tumors while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissues.

Your treatment team will consult MSK specialists to see if radiation therapy belongs in your plan of care.

A Promising Approach: Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a type of radiation therapy that uses advanced imaging and computer guidance to deliver large doses of radiation directly to tumors. The radiation beam is shaped to match the outline of the tumor. The instrument used for the treatment is very precise, protecting nearby healthy tissue.

Stereotactic radiosurgery expert Kathryn Beal
Stereotactic Radiosurgery Treats Brain Metastases in a Single Day
A high-dose radiation treatment that can be given in one day — called stereotactic radiosurgery — has become an effective and increasingly common approach for patients with metastatic brain tumors.
Learn more

This approach may be helpful if:

  • your brain metastases are 4 centimeters wide (about 1.5 inches) or smaller
  • you have up to three small tumors in the brain
  • you have tumors that surgery can’t reach
  • you can’t tolerate anesthesia
  • your disease is advanced

Results from a 2012 study showed that combining stereotactic radiosurgery with ipilimumab — an immunotherapy medicine that has improved survival in patients with metastatic melanoma — may better control your disease and extend your life.

Other Radiation Therapy Approaches

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy

This technique (IMRT) delivers high doses of radiation to the brain tumor while protecting your healthy brain tissue. It uses advanced software and 3-D CT scans to mold radiation doses to the shape of the tumor.

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy

Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) combines advanced imaging with IMRT. Our specialists incorporate the imaging in each IGRT session to ensure the precise delivery of each radiation dose.

Whole-Brain Radiation Therapy

Whole-brain radiation therapy is usually the most effective treatment approach if you have large tumors deep in the brain or many tumors throughout your brain. This radiation therapy is given over a course of weeks to minimize side effects.