A Progressive Brain Tumor Group
In The Heart Of The Carolinas
Originally published Fall 2001

National clinical trials, innovative treatment options, and unique neurosurgical expertise are all available to brain tumor patients in Charlotte. What makes this fact even more remarkable is that this major brain tumor program was established without the support of an academic institution. “Every other brain tumor effort of this kind relies on the resources of a med
Tony Asher, MD,FACS
ical school. We didn’t have that option,” said Anthony Asher, MD, FACS, who along with his colleagues at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates initiated the Charlotte Brain Tumor Group five years ago. “The principal goal of the group is to provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary care to brain tumor patients incorporating the expertise of neurosurgeons, medical oncologists, neuropathologists, rehabilitation medicine specialists and neurologists.”

A defining feature of the Brain Tumor Group’s effort is a multidisciplinary conference - a working session every Wednesday morning headed by the surgeons of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates. A team of seven physicians, a nurse coordinator, research coordinator, social workers and other health care personnel meet to evaluate and discuss the management of difficult cases. “The emphasis in these sessions is on optimization of patient care,” said Dr. Asher. “Every aspect of the patient’s situation - from therapies to social and psychological needs - is discussed and addressed.”

Harnessing State-Of-The-Art Resources
The majority of brain tumor efforts are conducted through the Neurological Institute and the Blumenthal Cancer Center at Carolinas Medical Center. However,
care is provided out of four major area hospitals, each providing state-of-the-art technologies.

A full-time neuropsychologist provides neurocognitive services. Full electro-diagnostic services complement the brain tumor effort providing intra-operative brain mapping, intra-operative EEG, SSEPs, BAERs, etc. when appropriate. Functional MRI is available through the radiology department at Presbyterian Hospital. Carolinas Medical Center has made a commitment to purchase a dedicated radiosurgical device, the Brain Lab Novalis. This equipment will make it possible to provide state-of–the-art, minimally invasive treatments for patients with a variety of brain tumors.

Patient support and education have always been a priority in the Brain Tumor Group, and a brain tumor support group has been organized that meets monthly. In-house social workers, neuropsychiatric services and the resources of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service supplement the patient support effort.

Making An Impact On A National Scale
The Brain Tumor Group is actively engaged in the international effort to advance brain tumor therapies, with Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates is participating in Phase I, II and III clinical trials. Additionally, the practice is heavily involved in outcomes research, and presently leads all centers in the nation with more than 100 patients enrolled in the Glioma Outcome Project.

The Brain Tumor Group’s participation with various national groups has expanded rapidly. “We’re represented on the executive committees of the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (CNS Section), the Joint Section on Tumors of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the Glioma Outcome Project,” explained Dr. Asher.

What Lies Ahead?
With the continued progress of multi-modality therapies (combining surgery, radiation, drug therapy and genetics), Dr. Asher believes that sometime within the next 10 to 15 years these brain tumor malignancies will be “converted from uniformly lethal diseases to chronic illnesses,” and that Charlotte will play a role in this revolution.

Asher explained, “As we look to the future, a key goal is to expand the availability of innovative treatment options for our patients by continuing to develop collaborative relationships with industry partners and other national brain tumor centers.”

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© 2001 Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates