Treatment for Spine Tumors

Advances in technology and new therapeutic techniques, including several developed by doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering, have dramatically improved the safety and effectiveness of spine tumor treatment. All of these developments ultimately lead back to you — you deserve the most effective spine tumor care from the most experienced spine tumor doctors.

Some of our most exciting developments include:

  • New surgical approaches and techniques that decompress your spinal cord and stabilize your spine, dramatically reducing time spent in the operating room.
  • In-surgery technology that monitors your neurologic function continuously, helping your surgeon to avoid injuring your spinal cord.
  • Innovative radiation techniques that precisely deliver high doses of radiation, opening up many effective spine tumor treatments.
  • Botox® (botulinum toxin) injections that decrease muscle spasms that can happen after surgery or radiation therapy, reducing pain and improving your mobility.
  • Minimally invasive surgical procedures that can stabilize your spine, helping make surgery and radiation therapy safer.

Minimally Invasive Therapies

A break or crack in your vertebrae is a common and painful side effect of spine tumors. We use minimally invasive therapies to stabilize your spine and repair vertebral fractures before you have radiation therapy or surgery. These techniques can also give you pain relief from tumors that don’t respond to radiation.

Here are three common minimally invasive therapies we use at MSK:

  • vertebroplasty  A special bone cement is injected directly into a collapsed vertebra to stabilize the spine before surgery or radiation therapy. The cement may also serve as a marker in patients who are treated with image-guided radiation therapy.
  • kyphoplasty  A small balloon called a tamp is inserted into the vertebra and inflated. This creates a space into which bone cement can be injected.
  • pedicle screw placement  Specialized bone screws are placed into vertebrae, with image guidance from fluoroscopy or x-rays. The screws serve as anchors for rods and other instruments that are used to stabilize the spine.

How We Develop Your Comprehensive Spine Tumor Treatment Plan

Our neurosurgeons have created a diagnostic information guide (called NOMS) that helps your treatment team customize a plan of care to match your clinical data. NOMS organizes several kinds of diagnostic information, including:

  • neurologic involvement — whether the tumor has compressed your spinal cord or nerve root
  • oncologic information — whether or not your tumor is likely to respond to radiation therapy
  • mechanical factors — vertebral fractures and other problems that affect the stability of your spine
  • systemic factors — your general health, including the extent of the primary cancer, which can affect your ability to tolerate surgery and radiation therapy

Depending on your NOMS assessment and the stage of the cancer, your treatment team will likely recommend a combination of spine tumor therapies. Our goal is to make your spine tumor go away and never come back.

Systemic Therapies

Sometimes, in addition to radiation and surgery, we will recommend medicines that circulate throughout your body and attack cancer cells and the environment in which they thrive. These are called systemic therapies. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we offer several systemic therapies, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and bone-protecting treatments.