Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy

Get the latest on MSK’s approach to brain tumors at our October 27 CancerSmart Talk “The ABCs of Brain Tumors: From Biology to Treatment”

Watch the live webcast or register to attend.

In recent years, our doctors have expanded the use of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for the treatment of low-grade glioma.


Chemotherapy can play an important role in the management of low-grade glioma. Your treatment team will plan the best approach to chemotherapy based on the location of your particular tumor and the results of surgery.

You may receive chemotherapy prior to surgery for low-grade glioma, or you may receive chemotherapy only if the tumor returns after surgery.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy rays to shrink or kill tumor cells. Memorial Sloan Kettering experts have been leading efforts to improve radiation therapy for brain tumors. We have refined the use of sophisticated tools – including state-of-the-art linear accelerators, advanced imaging approaches, and high-speed computer-based systems – to deliver powerful doses of radiation to tumors with remarkable precision. Our radiation team also works together to offer the highest level of safety during every step of your treatment.

Not all patients with low-grade gliomas receive radiation therapy. In patients who are candidates for this treatment, radiation therapy can be used in several ways:

  • As a primary treatment
  • Along with surgery and/or chemotherapy as a part of primary treatment
  • As a next-line therapy to treat tumors that have recurred after primary treatment

The type of radiation used for a particular patient depends on a variety of factors, including the type, size, and location of the tumor.

Types of Radiation Therapy

At the Brain Tumor Center, we commonly use two types of external radiation therapy to treat brain tumors: intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT).

  • IMRT – This involves the use of sophisticated computer software and three-dimensional images from CT scans to focus high doses of radiation directly onto the tumor. The pencil-thin beams vary in intensity and conform to the specific shape and size of the tumor. This highly focused approach reduces the exposure of healthy brain tissue to radiation, and can lessen the side effects of treatment.
  • IGRT – This technique uses real-time image guidance with either a CT scan or x-rays performed at the time of radiation therapy by the actual treatment machine to ensure an ideal setup and lack of motion during treatment. This allows radiation to be delivered with even more accuracy, which is critical for some brain tumors.

Rarely, our doctors perform stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) to treat low-grade gliomas with a single high dose of radiation.

Radiation Safety

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, ensuring your safety during radiation therapy is of the highest importance. Our medical physicists work closely with your radiation oncologist to meticulously plan the radiation dosage before your treatment. Medical physicists are also present during your treatment to ensure that radiation is delivered correctly and in the optimal locations.

We have implemented extensive safety protocols to manage our radiation therapy program, including multiple checks of the radiation dosage and frequent examination of the machinery to make sure that it is functioning properly.