Our Program

The Neuro-Oncology Program at Keck Medical Center of USC and the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles has an internationally recognized team of expert clinicians and renowned researchers who are focused on giving our patients real hope in the battle against cancer. Using the latest treatments, research and breakthroughs, we are committed to providing the best care possible.

Brain and spinal tumors, like many other cancers, come in a great variety of types, each necessitating a different approach to treatment that may require medical, surgical or radiological intervention. As a result, an effective neuro-oncology program requires expertise in all of these therapeutic modalities. This expertise is available at the USC Neuro-Oncology Program.

Our multidisciplinary team of physicians is comprised of internationally renowned specialists in neuro-oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology and neurosurgery who provide patients with expertise across a broad range of diagnostic and treatment options. This close collaboration among our team members gives patients convenient access to personalized care in one location.

Our physicians, as faculty at one of the most respected university-based medical institutions in the country, stay up-to-date with research that allows them to diagnose the most difficult cases. Their research also leads to groundbreaking clinical trials that offer innovative and promising therapies. Our esteemed, compassionate physicians and researchers will work with you to develop a personalized plan for your care, including access to clinical trials not available elsewhere.

As one among many diagnostic and treatment options we offer, advanced neuro-navigational technology and stereotactic devices more accurately localize brain tumors. This system helps reduce the size of incisions and length of hospital stay and improve patient recovery. We also offer advanced procedures to ensure the preservation of speech and motor function. Our program offers novel clinical trials that can lead to more effective treatments in the fight against these tumors. Using advanced imaging and genetic profiling we are able to determine an individualized treatment plan for each of our patients.

We offer advanced treatments such as:

  • GammaKnife®
  • Interventional neuro-radiology
  • MR Profusion
  • MR Spectroscopy
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

Our Approach

Our comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to caring for patients with brain tumors brings together experts across the spectrum of clinical care, including neuro-oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology and neurosurgery. Your care team meets weekly with a board of specialists who confer on your specific condition and circumstances to develop and monitor a comprehensive treatment plan tailored your individual situation. When you have the advantage of care from a coordinated team, you’ll receive some of the latest treatments, see esteemed physicians and benefit from attention to detail on a personal level.

We are the only center in Southern California offering all three radiation oncology options – GammaKnife® and TrueBeam™ Stx – in the same facility, giving our patients a wider range of options than any other institution in the area. TrueBeam™ Stx radiosurgery uses sophisticated imaging and tools to visualize soft tissue during treatment and customize treatment accordingly.


The Neuro-Oncology program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC boasts a dedicated team of experts in the identification, diagnosis and treatment of brain and spinal tumors. Some tumors are benign (which do not grow quickly or spread), while others can be very complex and spread throughout the body. Even benign tumors may be of concern, depending on their location and ability to press against important tissues in the brain or spinal cord.

Conditions managed by the program include:

Brain tumors are tumors that originate in the brain. Tumors can destroy brain cells and create damage to other cells through inflammation or increased pressure. Gliomas are the most common brain tumor; they account for more than half of the primary brain tumors treated at the cancer center. They can be non-cancerous (benign) or non-cancerous (malignant). The most malignant type of glioma, known as glioblastoma multiforme, comprises more than 50 percent of all gliomas.

Brain tumors treated include:

  • Acoustic neuroma is a benign, slow-growing tumor that grows on the nerve connecting the inner ear and the brain.
  • Lymphoma occurs when malignant white blood cells form in the brain’s lymph tissue.
  • Ependymoma is a rare tumor that arises in tissue of the central nervous system and presents in the spine.
  • Glioblastoma are tumors that arise in the “astrocytes,” which are the cells that form supportive tissues in the brain.
  • Low grade glioma describes any slower-growing cancer that forms in the brain’s “astrocytes” or supportive tissue cells.
  • Oligodendroglioma is a type of tumor cell that forms in supportive tissue in the brain.
  • Craniopharyngiomas describes cancers, which are usually benign, and arise in groups of cells making up the “stalk” of the pituitary gland.
  • Meningioma is a tumor in the tissues that surround and protect the surfaces of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Metastatic brain tumors are tumors that originated from another part of the body and have been found in brain tissue. Metastatic tumors of the brain are much more common than primary brain tumors (those that originated in the brain).
  • Pituitary tumor is cancer in the pituitary gland, which controls the body’s growth. Most of these tumors are benign. However, even a benign tumor can cause abnormal hormone balances in the body.

Spinal tumors
Our physicians have clinical experience and research expertise in managing many complex types of spinal tumors.

Primary tumors treated include:

  • Nerve tube tumors which is cancer that arise during the very early stages of human growth, as the central and peripheral nervous systems develop.
  • Benign tumors of the spine are non-metastatic cancers in various locations in or around spinal cord tissue, which can cause problems with mobility sensation or other issues depending on the tumor’s size and location.
  • Chordoma is a rare cancer that occurs in the bones surrounding the spinal cord. Read about the Chordoma Center at Keck Medicine of USC here.
  • Neurofibromas are tumors found in the myelin sheath surrounding peripheral nerves (or parts of the spinal cord). Neurofibromas arise in patients who have the genetic disorder neurofibromatosis. There are two types of neurofibromatosis. Visit our health library for more detailed information about neurofibromatosis 1 and neurofibromatosis 2.
  • Spinal sarcoma are tumors that occur in bones surrounding the spinal cord.

Treatments and Services

Brain and spine tumors come in a great variety of types, each requiring a different approach to treatment that may require medical, surgical or radiation-based intervention. The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, collaborating with the USC Brain and Spine Tumor Center, offers a comprehensive approach to caring for patients with brain and spinal tumors.

Brain Tumor Treatments

Our physicians take a comprehensive medical and family history, and maximize the use of pre-operative diagnostics and imaging techniques to pinpoint the location of the tumor and minimize the risk to surrounding areas of the brain. For some brain tumors, to ensure the preservation of speech and motor function, we offer awake craniotomy, a painless procedure in which the patient is anesthetized, but conscious. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are other options, and may be used in conjunction with surgical procedures.

Keck Hospital of USC is one of just six facilities in California to offer advanced Gamma Knife® therapy – a form of radiation therapy that focuses high-power energy on a small area of the body – and only one of two in Los Angeles to feature its latest version, Perfexion™. Providing surgeons with non-invasive methods of treating inoperable brain tumors, the goal of Gamma Knife® treatment is to reduce the risk to the patientwhile maximizing the therapy’s effectiveness. Click here to learn more about our Stereotactic Radiosurgery Program.

Keck Medical Center of USC is one of the few university-based medical centers where the interventional neuro-radiologists are part of the neuro-oncology team. These physicians specialize in the embolization of tumors of the brain. The lesions are treated and are then more amenable to surgical and radiation-based therapies.

Spinal Tumor Treatments

Just like brain tumor treatment, the key to successful spinal tumor treatment is an accurate and timely diagnosis. Care received is dictated by what kind of cancer is being managed. The team at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Brain and Spine Tumor Center provide the most innovative and sophisticated surgical and non-surgical treatment to prolong survival and improve quality of life.

Spinal cord tumor specialists may also use Truebeam™ STx radiosurgery.

Minimally invasive techniques

The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles embraces the latest technology to improve the ultimate outcome of your treatments. Minimally invasive surgical and medical techniques — some of which were developed at USC — can reduce scarring and pain, and shorten healing time. Some of our innovative technology includes:

BrainPath® is a tool allows neurosurgeons to reposition healthy brain tissue when locating a tumor, instead of cutting it, which lowers the risk of complications. The BrainPath® also creates a clear passageway for surgeons to maintain access to the tumor for removal.

Cancer Genetics
A large number of cancers are inherited, or part of a mutation that spurs the growth of many types of cancers throughout the body. Counselors and physicians from the Cancer Genetics Program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center can help you determine if you have an inherited cancer, or are at risk of such a cancer.

Minimally invasive instruments and design are specialized instruments that are routinely used to remove tumors during operations performed at Keck Medical Center of USC.

Neuro-endoscopy is fueled by recent advances in optical technology and supported by the miniaturization of camera and digital devices. Surgeons are now able to explore and treat conditions located within small and complex spaces with unparalleled visualization and illumination.

Neuro-navigation involves the use of high-quality neuroimaging (such as an MRI) that is programmed into a specialized computer, which is located within the operating room and registered to the patient’s surface anatomy prior to starting the operation. The navigation device acts as a sort of global positioning satellite, or “GPS,” for the brain that may improve safety and minimizes the size of surgical incisions.

Patient Care

Your care will fall under the neuro-oncology program, but you will be treated by experts from several specialties at the same time. These experts could include a neurosurgeon, neuro-oncologist, endocrinologist, radiation oncologist and ophthalmologist, among others. To streamline care and improve consensus among all physicians, patients’ cases are discussed at a weekly tumor board, where specialists from all these disciplines come together to formulate a cohesive plan for optimizing patient care.

The type of diagnostics and treatments you receive will vary greatly, and depend on the type and stage of cancer you have, other medical issues you have, and your preferences for treatment. Some treatments will be medical, and some treatments can be completed in one day, while others will require surgery and a hospital stay.


A number of associations, patient groups and online resources are available to patients with cancer of the nervous system. Some associations will be specific to a type of cancer, while others provide more comprehensive, general information. In addition, several patient support groups are available at USC, depending on the type of cancer you may have. Your treatment team can assist you with finding the right support group and other resources.

American Brain Tumor Association
A wealth of information about brain and spinal tumors.

Chordoma Foundation


Support Groups
Cancer Support Community

The National Cancer Institute’s Directory of Support Services

Caregiver Action Network – Resources and Support for Caregivers

Clinical trials
Patients have the option of taking part in clinical trials being conducted at Keck Medical Center of USC. While clinical trial participation does not ensure that an effective treatment will be received, participation does help provide invaluable information for future treatments, and possibly a cure in the future. Learn about brain and spinal tumor clinical trials at Keck Medical Center of USC as they become open to patients.

Our Physicians

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Practicing Locations

USC Healthcare Center 2
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Specializing In

Radiation Oncology

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Practicing Locations

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
Keck Medicine of USC - La Cañada Flintridge
USC Healthcare Center 4
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
Keck Medicine of USC - Pasadena
USC Healthcare Center 4
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Practicing Locations

Keck Medicine of USC - Pasadena
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
USC Healthcare Center 2
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital