Experts in the Duke Center for Brain and Spine Metastasis provide care to people whose cancer has spread to the brain or spine. If you have been told your prognosis is poor and your treatment options are limited, we may be able to help. We offer new treatments that may make it possible for you to live longer, with a better quality of life. We focus on your metastatic brain or spine cancer while partnering with your oncologists as they treat your primary cancer.
Hope When Faced with Metastatic Brain and/or Spine Cancer
Cancers that Spread to the Brain or Spine
Cancer that starts in one area of the body can metastasize, or spread, to the brain or spine. Cancers that commonly spread to the brain include melanoma and lung, breast, and colon cancers. Cancers that most often spread to the spine include lung, breast, and prostate cancer.
Brain or Spine Tumors May Be Difficult to Reach
Depending on the stage, size, and location of the brain or spine tumor, this secondary cancer is typically considered advanced and may be life-threatening. Because these tumors are often difficult to reach, some people are told by doctors elsewhere that their tumors are inoperable and untreatable.
Advanced Treatment Options
We use advances in medical therapy, radiation therapy, and minimally invasive surgery to remove or treat brain or spine metastases or to slow or stop the spread of cancer. Treatments can also lessen symptoms such as pain, seizures, memory problems, trouble speaking, and loss of strength or mobility. Many of the people we treat lead productive lives for years after treatment.
A Patient Navigator Guides Your Care
Our patient navigator guides you and your loved ones through the complexities of receiving cancer care from multiple specialists within our cancer center. Often, more than one appointment can be scheduled on the same day. The patient navigator facilitates your access to the comprehensive support services available at Duke.
Diagnosing Brain and Spine Metastasis
Our first step is to conduct a series of comprehensive exams and tests. Our team reviews your results and uses them to create your personalized treatment plan.
MRI, CT, PET
Imaging tests -- including MRI, CT, PET, bone scans, and angiography -- accurately pinpoint the location, size, and stage of your brain or spine tumor.
A small sample of your brain or spine tumor may be removed and examined to confirm a diagnosis.
Our nurse navigator can guide you through the process of seeking a second opinion for yourself or a loved one. Call 919-681-3038.
The Duke Cancer Center provides an outstanding patient experience by bringing together the outpatient services you need in one convenient location.
Why Choose Duke
Our Focus Is Brain and Spine Metastasis
Our neurosurgeons, spine surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, pain management specialists, palliative care specialists, and other providers meet weekly to create treatment plans for our patients. This team approach means a team of specialists contribute their expertise to your care.
Close Collaboration with Your Oncologist
People come to Duke from across the country for the treatment advances we offer. Whether you live close by or far away, we work with your oncologist so any treatments you receive at Duke will supplement your ongoing cancer care.
Planning and Navigation Tools Ensure Surgical Accuracy
Our advanced technology helps make brain and spine surgery safer and more effective. For example, our surgeons use “tractography” to visualize the complex wiring within the brain at the highest resolution possible. They use this technology to create a path to your tumor that avoids critical structures involved in language, memory, and motor control. Likewise, intraoperative MRI gives your surgeon detailed images of your brain or spine during surgery, to ensure they remove as much of the tumor as possible.
Leaders and Teachers
Duke doctors and surgeons are among a handful of specialists in the country who are refining, performing, and teaching new treatments for brain and spine metastases. Our team includes leaders in studying the benefits of using stereotactic radiosurgery instead of whole-brain radiation. And our neurosurgeons train their peers at other centers in how to perform laser interstitial thermal therapy.
Nationally Recognized Brain Tumor Program
Our experts are at the forefront of primary brain tumor research and treatment. That recognition extends to the specialists who treat people with metastatic brain and spine tumors.
Clinical Trial Access
People with brain and spine metastases have historically been excluded from cancer clinical trials. The Duke Center for Brain and Spine Metastasis (DCBSM) is one of the only research programs of its kind. We develop trials that are specifically geared toward brain and spine metastases, molecular alterations of the metastasis, treatment side effects, quality of life, and more. As a Duke patient, you may have the opportunity to participate in studies that are testing medical and radiation advances not yet available elsewhere.
Ongoing Research Leads to New Developments
Some of our ongoing research focuses on brain and spine tumor immunobiology. We’re working to create immune-based therapies such as vaccines that will train the immune system to fight brain and spine metastases as if they were infections.
Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cancer program is nationally ranked, and the highest ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2021–2022.