Postage Stamp-Sized Treatment for Brain Tumors


PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor each year. These tumors tend to resist current treatments and don’t react well to chemo and radiation. They also have a high rate of recurrence. Now, small seeds are giving patients new hope.

It’s the size of a postage stamp and is helping to destroy indestructible brain tumors, like the ones Anthony Parise battled for years.

“It moved from my lung to my brain,” recalls Anthony.

First diagnosed with lung cancer, an MRI revealed it spread.

Matthew Shepard, MD, neurosurgeon at Allegheny Health Network explains, “The most common type of brain tumor that is cancerous actually doesn’t arise from the brain tissue itself. It actually arises from other sites of the body, such as a lung cancer or co colon cancer or melanoma.”

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Anthony underwent two brain surgeries to remove the tumor and two rounds of radiation.

“Now, we’re in a situation where we have a patient who has lung cancer, but the only spot where they have the lung cancer in their whole body is in his brain,” further explains Dr. Shepard.

Dr. Shepard believes the Gamma Tile is Anthony’s last option.

“We implant little tiles that are implanted with some radiation seeds that emit a low dose radiation over several weeks to months,” Dr. Shepard adds.

The tiles slowly dissolve — there’s no surgery needed to remove them and unlike traditional radiation where patients are required to come into the hospital as many as 30 times to receive treatment, whereas with the Gamma Tile, you put it in and forget it. For the first time in years, Anthony is now tumor-free.

“So, I am happy, you know, when I wake up in the morning, that’s another good day for me,” Anthony says with relief.

Already used in bladder and prostate cancers, the Gamma Tile is relatively new to treating tumors in the brain. There are very few side effects with the gamma tile and only one in 74 patients experienced hair loss. The Gamma Tile is currently being used for only patients whose tumor recurs and when post-operative radiation or chemotherapy options are limited.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Matt Goldschmidt, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Brain tumors are abnormal growths of cells in the brain or the central spinal canal. They can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). These tumors can originate from brain cells, membranes surrounding the brain, cranial nerves, or from metastasis (spread) of tumors originating in other organs. There are three major types of brain tumors: glioblastomas, medulloblastomas, and acoustic neuromas. In 2023, almost 25,000 adults in the United States were diagnosed with a brain tumor, and over 5,000 children were diagnosed with a brain tumor in the U.S. as well. The five-year survival rate is 36% and the 10-year survival rate is 30%.


DIAGNOSING: Symptoms of a brain tumor typically include, but are not limited to: headaches or pressure in the head, nausea, vomiting, eye problems, numbness in arms and legs, balance issues, speech problems, fatigue, confusion, memory problems, personality changes, seizures, hearing problems, dizziness, and/or gaining weight. Doctors can usually diagnose brain tumors through a neurological exam, a head CT scan, a brain MRI, a PET scan, or a brain biopsy.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Allegheny Health Network has recently developed an FDA-approved tool to treat brain tumors called GammaTiles. Neurosurgeon Matthew Shepard, MD was the head of the development. According to NeurologyLive, “GammaTile is a small bioresorbable collagen tile placed at the tumor site by a neurosurgeon immediately following tumor removal. The FDA-cleared therapy is designed to provide radiation where needed, while protecting healthy tissue and minimizing radiation side effects, including hair loss.”



Sarafina Brooks James

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Matthew Shepard, MD, Neurosurgeon

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