When cancer spreads, one of the most common destinations is the spine, and treatment often is complex and requires special expertise. Angelinos facing this challenge can turn to the physicians of City of Hope’s spinal cancer program.
Mike Chen, left, examines a model of the spine with colleague Jana Portnow. (Photo by Markie Ramirez)
Recent data from California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development show that the program surgically treats the highest number of spinal cancer cases in the Los Angeles area.
City of Hope also is the only Los Angeles-area institution with a program dedicated to spinal cancer, according to co-directors Mike Y. Chen, M.D., Ph.D., and Rahul Jandial, M.D., Ph.D., both assistant professors in the Division of Neurosurgery.
Most cases of spinal cancer arise when breast, lung or prostate cancers metastasize, or spread, from their original tumor sites. About one in four cancer patients will have spinal metastasis. Left unchecked, cancer in the spine can cause pain, disability and even paralysis.
City of Hope’s spinal cancer program focuses the institution’s diverse research and treatment expertise and brings a multidisciplinary team approach to treating cancer metastases to the spine, according to Jandial and Chen. The physicians work in partnership with City of Hope specialists such as Jeffrey Wong, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Julie Ann Ressler, M.D., chief of neuroradiology, and Jay Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair in Supportive Care Medicine.
“Our team focuses on providing early, minimally invasive interventions before large complex surgeries are needed,” said Chen.
Chen and Jandial cite open kyphoplasty as a procedure that unites different specialists in a focused effort.
In kyphoplasty, bone cement is injected into vertebrae to strengthen them and replace bone loss, which often results when cancer cells invade the spine and following chemotherapy and radiation treatment. A neurosurgeon and neuroradiologist work together on the procedure.
Similarly, in stereotactic body radiation therapy, a neurosurgeon and a radiation oncologist team up to focus high-dose radiation on spinal tumors.
The spinal cancer program also addresses the psychosocial needs of patients. Supportive care services include physical rehabilitation, pain management, social work and spiritual care.