News Release: Emory Healthcare, Research, School of Medicine, Winship Cancer Institute

Mar. 16,  2009

Emory Winship Cancer Institute Emphasizes Care, Research for Patients with Brain Metastases

Metastasis to the brain is one of the most feared complications of cancer, accounting for a fifth of cancer deaths in the United States.

A brain metastasis is a cancer that originates elsewhere in the body and travels through circulation to establish itself in the brain. Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute emphasizes a team approach to treating patients with brain metastases, including neurosurgery, precise radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

"At many cancer centers, there has been little attention directed toward developing new therapies and clinical trial strategies for these patients," says Walter Curran Jr., MD, Lawrence Davis professor and chairman of radiation oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. "We have established Winship as a multidisciplinary referral center that can meet brain metastasis patients’ specialized care needs."

About 15 percent of patients with cancer come to a doctor because of neurological symptoms from a brain metastasis before the original cancer is diagnosed. In addition, as survival rates for primary cancer have increased over the last few decades, the incidence of brain metastases has been rising.

Over the past year, Emory Winship doctors have begun several clinical trials designed for specific groups of brain metastases patients.

As an example, one multisite study is testing the ability of memantine, a medication given for Alzheimer’s disease, to reduce the side effects from radiation therapy, such as memory difficulties and trouble concentrating. This study is sponsored by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, a National Cancer Institute-funded consortium of cancer clinicians of which Curran is the national chairman.

Another clinical trial evaluates an experimental drug known as a PARP inhibitor. PARP (poly-ADP ribose polymerase) is an enzyme involved in DNA damage repair and interfering with it is thought to sensitize cells to radiation and chemotherapy. The PARP inhibitor study is sponsored by Abbott Laboratories.

"We take a team approach to the care of our patients," says Alfredo Voloschin, MD, a neuro-oncologist and assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology. "At weekly meetings patient progress is discussed in detail among physicians and nurses from different disciplines, and treatment is based on these in–depth discussions. Patients also have greater opportunity to participate in innovative clinical trials thanks to this multidisciplinary approach." 

Team members also include David Lawson, MD, professor of hematology and medical oncology, Jeffrey Olson, MD, professor of neurosurgery, Costantinos Hadjipanayis, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery and Ian Crocker, MD, professor of radiation oncology.

More information about specific clinical trials is available at 404-778-5180 or


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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