Cancer is complex — there is no routine spine tumor, nor is there a routine way to treat it.

For spine tumors, the first treatments often represent the very best opportunity to put the cancer into remission or effectively treat it with the least amount of side effects.

The OSUCCC – James brain and spine cancer specialists and sub-specialists are nationally and internationally renowned in patient care and research for their one particular cancer. Our brain and spine cancer treatment team includes internationally recognized medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, hematologists, geneticists, spine cancer research experts, and more. Working together and across medical disciplines, this super sub-specialized team develops individualized, highly targeted treatment plans that specifically target the molecular and biological makeup of your individual brain cancer.

That’s why the OSUCCC – James is a world leader in spine cancer treatment, developing some of the very latest advancements in molecular testing and targeting cancer genes – technology that’s available at only a few cancer centers in the country. In fact, our physician experts actually help write the national clinical guidelines for treating specific cancers.

As one of only four cancer centers in the country funded by the National Cancer Institute to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials, the OSUCCC – James offers patients access to more clinical trials than nearly any other cancer hospital in the region and more of the latest, most targeted, most effective treatment options.

Technological Treatment Advances

The OSUCCC – James brain and spine cancer experts are currently working with specially trained engineers to build personalized spine models for each spine tumor patient. This means that, by using something called biodynamics, these sub-specialized surgical oncology experts will actually be able to see the patient’s cancer in 3-D — and determine what the surgery will look like before it takes place – offering even greater precision, faster response times and less side effects for the patients.

Other technological advances include radiosurgery (gamma knife technology) for spine tumors. This brain tumor procedure is now being studied for spine tumor patients in combination with a surgery called vertibroplasty, which would enable the OSUCCC – James surgical oncologists to inject chemotherapy directly into the affected vertebrae.

Spine Tumor Treatment

As a National Cancer Institute (NCI)–designated comprehensive cancer center, the OSUCCC – James offers patients access to novel therapies that may not be available anywhere else in the United States. The James also leads some of the world’s most advanced, sophisticated clinical trials for brain cancers.

Every person’s disease is different, with individually unique genes and molecules driving that disorder. The OSUCCC – James is a leader in offering some of the world’s most advanced, sophisticated treatments for spine tumor patients.

At the OSUCCC – James, our cancer sub-specialists are world-renowned experts who focus solely on brain and spine disorders and who reach across medical disciplines to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific cancer.

Spine tumor treatment is based on the following:

  • The type of tumor
  • Where the tumor formed
  • The amount of cancer left after surgery
  • The tumor grade
  • The molecular makeup of the tumor

One or more of the following treatments may be recommended. (Patients may also benefit from new therapies available in clinical trials.)


Surgery is the initial treatment chosen for most spine tumors. This is important because it allows your OSUCCC – James experts to examine tissue under a microscope and make the most accurate diagnosis. Surgery may consist of a biopsy to remove a small piece of tumor, or a tumor resection to remove a larger portion of the tumor.

Types of surgeries:

The type of surgery your OSUCCC – James doctor recommends will depend on the type of tumor, its location and the symptoms you are experiencing. If you have weakness, numbness or paralysis of arms and legs or a change in bladder or bowel function, an open surgical procedure may be necessary.

Closed procedure (vertebroplasty) – Using a needle, the surgeon injects special cement into the vertebral body damaged by the tumor.

Open procedures – These procedures may be done with a surgical incision on the front or back

    • Decompression: to remove bone that has the tumor and to increase the space around the spinal cord and nerves. 
    • Stabilization: application of screws, rods or cement to stabilize the spinal column
    • Combination: both the above procedures; may be staged one or more days apart.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays targeted directly at the cancer cells to destroy cancer cells or keep them from growing. A patient with brain cancer may receive radiation therapy before or after a surgery to remove tissue or a tumor. Radiation can shrink a tumor to make surgery more successful, and it is delivered only to the tumor in order to prevent damage to surrounding, healthy brain tissue.

Radiation is delivered only to the area of the tumor to prevent damage to other healthy parts of the brain.

The OSUCCC – James radiation experts are leaders in innovative radiation treatments, and The James is one of the few hospitals in Ohio to offer radiation treatments in the prone position (the patient is lying down).

The OSUCCC – James also offers other leading-edge radiation treatments, including imaging-based radiation therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), stereotactic radiosurgery and using a Varian TrueBeam Linear Accelerator.


Chemotherapy drugs stop cancer cell growth by either destroying the cells or by preventing them from dividing and making new cells.

How chemotherapy is given depends on the type of spine tumor being treated. Depending on that particular cancer, chemotherapy drugs can be taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, and they may be given over a period of months.

When the drugs enter the bloodstream, they can reach cancer cells throughout the body (called systemic chemotherapy). Combination chemotherapy uses more than one anti-cancer drug.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies are drugs designed to attack cancer cells without destroying healthy surrounding cells. By delivering these drugs in combination with chemotherapy, targeted therapies interrupt certain proteins and receptors to stop cancer cells from growing.

These drugs tend to have less severe side effects and are usually tolerated better than traditional chemotherapy drugs.

Targeted therapy is a drug treatment designed to attack, or target, cancer cells, leaving healthy or normal cells unharmed. These drugs tend to have less severe side effects and are usually tolerated better than chemotherapy drugs.

(Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

Spine Tumor Research & Clinical Trials

For cancer patients, clinical trials mean hope. Hope for a cancer-free world and for better, more targeted ways to prevent, detect, treat and cure individual cancers. Patients can enter clinical trials before, during or after their cancer treatments.

The OSUCCC – James has hundreds of open clinical trials at any given time, with some of the world’s latest discoveries available to clinical trial patients right here in Columbus, Ohio. In fact, patients not only have access to more cancer clinical trials here than at nearly any other hospital in the region, but they also have access to some of the most advanced, targeted treatments and drugs available anywhere. These include several novel spine tumor trials such as new vaccines against spine tumors, viruses that divide in spine tumor cells and kill them, ways to overcome resistance to currently used treatments and antibodies that link to specific proteins and block tumor growth.

The OSUCCC – James is one of only four U.S. cancer centers funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to conduct phase I and phase II clinical trials. These trials go only to centers that demonstrate an exemplary capacity for research and clinical care, the expertise to deliver the latest in treatments and the infrastructure to interpret and track treatment results. 

Additionally, Ohio State has nearly 300 cancer researchers dedicated to understanding what makes each patient’s cancer grow, move, spread or reoccur. Because of the OSUCCC – James’ NCI phase I and phase II approvals, these experts can move research discoveries into clinical trials and make them available to patients sooner.

Who Should Participate in a Clinical Trial

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Patients can enter clinical trials before, during or after starting their cancer treatment.

The OSUCCC – James is one of only four institutions funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to conduct phase 1 and 2 clinical trials on NCI–sponsored anticancer drugs.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a spine tumor, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a spine cancer specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 W. 10th Ave.

Columbus, Ohio 43210


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