Brain Tumor Center
The Chênevert Family Brain Tumor Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center is an internationally recognized leader in comprehensive and multidisciplinary clinical care, and a hub of excellence for brain tumor research. Our team of specialists is dedicated exclusively to the care of patients with all types of brain tumors, and has extensive experience with:
- Primary brain tumors, such as glioblastomas, astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, primary CNS lymphomas, and others
- Brain metastases and leptomeningeal metastases, which originate from other cancers in the body
- Other primary tumors, such as meningiomas and schwannomas
- Rare brain tumors including craniopharyngiomas, medulloblastomas, ependymomas pineal tumors, pituitary tumors, and others
- All types of neurological complications of cancer and their treatments
Our expertise covers all critical components for successful care for patients with brain tumors, from comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and state-of-the-art genomic tumor profiling, to innovative treatment options and cutting-edge clinical trials.
We treat all patients, whether they are newly diagnosed or have already received extensive treatment. Our expert physicians are readily available to offer second opinions for patients from all over the country, and rapidly accommodate our patients for prompt evaluation and initiation of care. We also offer an extensive program to improve patients’ quality of life before, during, and after treatment, including psychosocial support, rehabilitation for memory impairment, and other resources.
Our experts use state-of-the-art technology to diagnose brain tumors with detailed accuracy. Three Tesla MRIs offer highly sophisticated testing, such as functional MRI, MR spectroscopy, and positron emission tomography (PET). Experienced neuroradiologists read all brain scans and evaluate the images for diagnosis. Importantly, all brain tumors that are biopsied or removed at our program undergo whole exome sequencing, the most advanced technique available for tumor characterization, which can target the vulnerabilities of individual tumors.
Many brain tumors require chemotherapy, targeted therapies, or other medical treatments, often combined with radiation therapy and surgery. Our team of neuro-oncologists have extensive expertise in delivering oncology treatments, with a focus on achieving optimal efficacy and safety. Each patient receives an individualized and coordinated treatment plan, taking into consideration the tumor type, molecular and genomic information on the tumor, and the patient’s own needs and choices. Additionally, our patients have access to cutting-edge Yale clinical trials exploring multiple novel strategies to fight brain cancer.
Established in 1958 as one of the first Radiation Oncology departments in the country, the Yale Department of Therapeutic Radiology has played a foundational role in the national development of radiotherapy as a cancer treatment. Building on this long tradition of excellence, our patients have access to radiation therapy through many cutting-edge platforms, including the Novalis Tx linear accelerator with BrainLab/ExacTrac guidance, and the Leksell Gamma Knife Icon. Our Gamma Knife program is regarded as a national leader in the treatment of primary and metastatic tumors.
In addition to multi-institutional clinical trials, we offer unique bench-to-bedside clinical trials for patients with primary and metastatic brain tumors. In close collaborations with our Neuro-Oncology team, patients receiving radiation therapy at Yale have access to clinical trials aimed at improving treatment efficacy through novel drug combinations.
Our primary goal is to remove as much of a brain tumor as safely as possible, while preserving brain function. Our highly skilled and dedicated neurosurgeons employ state-of-the-art techniques, including functional mapping and neurophysiology monitoring, which are sophisticated techniques that allow surgeons to protect critical brain structures during tumor removal. Smilow Cancer Hospital’s intraoperative MRI suite is one of only a few in the world and the only in the state of Connecticut, and allows neurosurgeons to take real-time images during surgery. Following surgery, our specialized ICUs are equipped with techniques to ensure a smooth recovery.
The collaboration with specialized neuroanesthesiologists is critical for these more technically challenging microsurgical procedures to be performed, allowing tumors previously declared “inoperable” to be safely removed. In addition to unparalleled surgical expertise, the use of intraoperative ultrasound and intraoperative MRI, the latter being the state’s only MRI actually located within the operating room, provides our neurosurgeons with real-time feedback, so they can ensure as much tumor can be removed during surgery. Smilow Cancer Hospital’s unique intraoperative hybrid angiography suite also allows our surgeons to decrease the tumor’s blood supply making surgery even safer. Our brain tumor surgeons also achieve precision and accuracy through the use of a stereotactic guidance system that utilizes the patient’s unique facial features for individualized surgical care for each tumor, regardless of its location. Importantly, following the surgery, our specialized ICUs are equipped with the latest techniques to ensure a smooth recovery.
Our surgeons are also one of the first groups nationally to offer a minimally invasive treatment for brain tumors known as Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT). Through a small scalp incision, a laser fiber is placed into the center of a brain tumor to supply heat treatment to the tumor under continual MRI guidance. Patients treated with this technique can often be sent home the day after surgery with minimal discomfort and almost no interruption to other cancer treatment.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) is a special form of radiation therapy used to treat benign and malignant brain tumors, blood vessel abnormalities of the brain and some neurologic conditions. Because the technologies used for SRS enable physicians and technicians to focus delivery accurately within millimeters, precise doses of radiation are delivered directly and only to the targeted area. Sometimes the total dose is divided into two or more sessions, called fractions, in order to deliver an adequate total dose to the tumor while minimizing the effect on the rest of the body.
SRS can be used to treat:
- Brain tumors
- Pituitary tumors
- Skull base tumors (including meningioma and schwannoma)
- Arteriovenous malformations (AVM)
- Acoustic neuromas
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Movement disorders
SRS has been shown to offer the following advantages over surgical treatment:
- Minimally invasive—no incision
- An option for some tumors that cannot be reached safely by traditional open surgery
- The ability to perform certain procedures as an outpatient without an overnight stay in the hospital
- A rapid return to normal activities, in most cases
For more information on Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT), please refer to our frequently asked questions.
Our Brain Tumor Center emphasizes taking care of all our patients’ needs by complementing the best medical care available with a network of supportive care services. Our nurses and physician assistants have specialized in meeting the unique needs of patients with brain tumors. Social workers help ensure psychosocial support is provided to patients and their families throughout treatment. Our neuropsychology clinic administers memory and other neurologic function tests, and provides cognitive rehab and treatments to improve memory, cognitive function, and quality of life in patients with brain tumors.
Other available resources for our patients and/or families include:
- Nutritional counseling
- Physical therapy
- Art therapy
- Pastoral support
- A dedicated brain tumor support group, held monthly for patients and their families
Patients can also apply for financial support, provided to our program by generous donations, that can help offset expenses during treatment.
For the convenience of patients and families coming from afar, the nearby Suites at Yale New Haven is a comfortable facility offering extended stay accommodations.
Brain Tumor Center Members
Clinical Program Leaders
Jennifer Moliterno, MD, APRNNeurosurgeryJennifer Moliterno, MD, is a fellowship-trained, board certified neurosurgeon at Yale Medicine who specializes in surgical procedures for benign and malignant brain tumors, as well as for trigeminal neuralgia and hemifacial spasm. She completed her internship and residency training in neurosurgery at Yale New Haven Hospital. Following her graduation, she underwent more advanced fellowship training in neurosurgical oncology and brain tumor surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Dr. Moliterno’s passion for taking care of her patients drives her work. “I get to take care of people at the highest level, which is incredibly rewarding,” she says. Dr. Moliterno alleviates patients’ concerns by helping them understand the procedures they’re about to undergo. To do this, she will often show them their MRI and CT scans. “It’s amazing how people really understand their condition and our treatment approach once they see their films,” she says. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Moliterno is involved with precision medicine for brain tumor patients.
News from Brain Tumor Center
Brain Cancer Trials
- Brain and Other Nervous System Cancers, Pediatric Cancers
A Phase 2 Study of Dabrafenib (NSC# 763760) With Trametinib (NSC# 763093) After Local Irradiation in Newly-Diagnosed BRAF V600-Mutant High-Grade Glioma (HGG)
- Brain and Other Nervous System Cancers
A Phase 3 Randomized Non-Inferiority Study of Carboplatin and Vincristine Versus Selumetinib (NSC# 748727) in Newly Diagnosed or Previously Untreated Low-Grade Glioma (LGG) Not Associated With BRAFV600E Mutations or Systemic Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1)