Neuro-oncology

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Nothing can prepare you for the shock and fear that comes with the diagnosis of a brain tumor or other neuro-oncology disease for your child. You need a team that provides compassionate care to help you move forward from that diagnosis and make the best, most informed decisions for your child’s health.

The neuro-oncology team at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital provides the most comprehensive treatment in the region, and we’re also trained to work specifically with families and children whose lives have been forever changed by a cancer diagnosis.

Our academic medicine brings families the latest research, clinical trials, and diagnosis and treatment techniques found at only the top institutions across the country.

Our patient-centered care focuses on making your child whole again. From child-friendly treatment and therapy to post-treatment services and recovery, our approach is personalized to meet the needs of your child and your family.

Neuro-oncology conditions we treat

The nervous system is one of the most high-tech parts of the body. Central to this system is your child’s brain and spinal cord. Our neuro-oncology team treats conditions and diseases affecting your child’s health.   

Brain tumors

These abnormal masses are among the most common neuro-oncology diseases in children. They can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Some diagnoses for brain tumors include gliomas, such as astrocytomas and diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG), meningiomas, ependymomas, atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors (ATRT), and craniopharyngiomas.

Neuroblastoma

This disease usually occurs in young children and may go away on its own. Tumors are caused by abnormal formation of nerve cells during fetal development.

Neuroendocrine tumors

While these types of tumors usually occur in older adults, neuroendocrine tumors can affect children as well. These tumors affect parts of your child’s body that produce hormones.

Retinoblastoma

This cancer that can occur in young children develops from immature retinal cells in the eye.

Primitive ectodermal tumors

Tumors, such as medulloblastoma, are generally found in the brain or spinal cord. They often arise from ectodermal tissue, which is the outermost layer of embryonic cells during fetal development.

Schwannomas

This type of nerve tumor affects the outer layer of nerve cells, also known as the sheath, and is usually benign.

Pituitary tumors

These tumors sit on the pituitary gland, which produces many of your child’s hormones, and is found just below the base of the brain.

Treatments and services

Imaging

Though you may already have a diagnosis for your child, your care team may conduct additional imaging to further evaluate your child’s illness.

Lumbar puncture

For some patients, lumbar punctures provide important information during the diagnosis process. This can help pinpoint the best approach to the prescribed treatment.

Genetic testing and sequencing

Biopsied sections of tumors can be sent to genetic testing to be sequenced. By understanding the mutation and genetic profile of your child’s cancer, your care team can provide targeted treatment.

Surgery

Some tumors can be removed through surgery alone, while others might include surgery as part of the treatment plan. Board-certified neurosurgeons and pediatric anesthesiologists work together with the surgery team to remove a tumor.

Medication and chemotherapy

Many tumors and cancers require treatment through chemotherapy and other medicines. At UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, children can receive chemotherapy as an inpatient or outpatient. Physicians use a minimally invasive central venous line, which means your child does not have to undergo a needle injection every time an IV placement is needed.

Retinoblastoma treatment

For children diagnosed with retinoblastoma, we offer a targeted form of chemotherapy in collaboration with ophthalmology and interventional radiology. Depending on the stage of retinoblastoma, this treatment provides the best chance of saving the affected eye.

Radiation therapy

For children, radiation therapy is very precise and done in small doses. Children are usually treated for a maximum of six weeks, starting several weeks after surgery. For young children, pediatric anesthesiologists are available to provide sedation. The treatment lasts less than an hour per day for older children and half a day for younger kids.

Why choose UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital?

Your child deserves individualized treatment and attention. UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital brings together comprehensive care and an environment that supports your child every step of the way.

A multidisciplinary approach 

You and your child are not alone on this journey. We use a multidisciplinary approach to treat your child. Your child benefits from a care team that collaborates with adult care specialists, providing a seamless transition of care when the time comes. Working with highly skilled nurses, therapists, social workers, and mental health specialists, the neuro-oncology team will ensure your child is cared for throughout the treatment process and beyond.

Access to clinical trials

UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is the region’s only pediatric academic medical center. Our physicians and researchers work every day to find innovative treatments for your child’s illness. We’ll talk with you about the latest in clinical trials and the newest techniques academic medicine can offer. Your child may qualify for a clinical trial, which can include treatments for diseases such as ATRT, low-grade glioma, glioblastoma, and neuroblastoma. All open clinical trials are found on our clinical trials website.

Resources for you

Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program

Cancer treatment is a unique challenge for a teenager or young adult. The Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program is a joint program between UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center that addresses the individual needs of this older group of patients.

Learn how Brady was able to overcome his brain tumor with the help of his care team

We know how important it is to care for the whole person, and that comprehensive and convenient care helps to make treatment much easier for children and families.

Health library

Understanding your child’s health is important. The UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital health library [Link to https://uichildrens.org/health-articles] can help answer some of the most common health questions parents have.

Patient Stories

  • Jackson Tijerina

    Jackson Tijerina, portrait Jackson was born a seemingly healthy boy, but at 5 months old, he began vomiting daily and was not growing. Ongoing testing did not provide any conclusive answers, and by the time he was 5 years old, Jackson began having intense headaches. A brain scan eventually revealed pilocytic astrocytoma, a rare, cancerous brain tumor. Doctors were able to remove 90% of the tumor, and further scans revealed that Jackson had an aggressive form of the brain tumor. Read more

Locations and Contact

  • UI Stead Family Children's Hospital
    Level 11
    200 Hawkins Drive
    Iowa City, Iowa 52242
    Hours
    • Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Contact
    • 1-319-356-2229
    • 1-888-573-5437 (888 573 KIDS)
    • 1-319-356-1616 (Emergency)

Other Team Members

Neuropathology

  • Leslie Bruch, MD
  • Karra Jones, MD, PhD
  • Patricia Kirby, MBBCh; Steven Moore, MD, PhD

Social worker

  • John Werner, SW