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Breakthrough Treatment Targets Brain Tumors - GammaTile Packs a Big Punch

Reflecting the expertise of its Neurological Institute, NorthShore is the first health system in Illinois to offer an advanced neurosurgery technique called the GammaTile. This novel approach to treating brain tumors was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019. It is now being used by Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes, MD, and Neuro-Oncologist Ryan Merrell, MD.

Bailes Gamma Tile

Small But Mighty
The tile—smaller than a postage stamp—provides surgically targeted radiation therapy, and is an innovative treatment option designed to delay tumor regrowth for patients with aggressive brain cancers such as glioblastoma and high-grade meningioma. These tumors often are resistant to standard treatments and usually grow back.

The GammaTile is made of collagen embedded with radiation seeds. After a neurosurgeon removes a brain tumor, the tile is then placed in the circular area surrounding the tumor cavity. The implant immediately begins releasing targeted radiation at the site to prevent the formation of new malignancies. The tile is eventually absorbed in the body eliminating the need for surgical removal.

“One main advantage to the GammaTile is that it applies the radiation directly where it’s needed, and avoids radiation to the whole brain, helping to protect healthy tissue,” explained Dr. Bailes, the Arlene and Marshall Bennett and Joseph A. Tarkington Chair of Neurosurgery.

Enhanced Patient Experience
The technique also offers additional advantages for a patient’s quality of life, added Dr. Bailes who, along with Dr. Merrell, holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Standard treatments for preventing brain tumor recurrence typically include external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). With EBRT, patients must travel to the hospital for daily treatment for weeks at a time. Additionally, patients usually wait three to four weeks following tumor removal to begin EBRT treatment. Even in such a short time frame residual tumor cells can regrow.

A variety of factors determine whether patients are eligible for the technique, including age, location and other characteristics of the tumor.

“We’re excited to offer this targeted treatment directly to the area that’s most at risk for recurrence,” noted Dr. Bailes. “It’s particularly useful for patients whose brain tumors have returned more than once or who can no longer be safely treated with standard radiation treatment. It shows great promise for prolonging survival and improving quality of life for patients.”