Skull Base Tumor Program
Franco DeMonte, M.D.,
Paul Gidley, M.D. and Ehab Hanna, M.D.
When faced with a tumor involving the skull base, choosing the right treatment partner can make a difference. The Skull Base Tumor Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center is committed to providing the best care available for patients with benign or malignant tumors affecting the skull base.
MD Anderson is one of the few cancer centers in the country with a specialized program for tumors of the skull base. The Skull Base Tumor Program joins together experts from multiple departments to provide each patient with comprehensive, individualized care – all within the MD Anderson setting. The multidisciplinary team of health care professionals in the Skull Base Tumor Program includes surgeons, oncologists, ophthalmologists, radiologists, pathologists and rehabilitation specialists. Working as a cohesive unit, these specialists utilize innovative technology to provide the very latest diagnostic, treatment and reconstructive options available.
Affiliated with both the Head and Neck Center and the Brain and Spine Center, our surgeons have extensive experience and are respected internationally for their ability to treat tumors in this delicate and complex area. Program co-directors Franco DeMonte, M.D., FRCSC, FACS, of the Neurosurgery department, Paul Gidley, M.D., FACS, and Ehab Y. Hanna, M.D., FACS, of the Head and Neck Surgery department, and lead this team of experts in treating patients with a wide range of tumors. Facial reanimation and complex craniofacial reconstruction are also provided by highly specialized members of the Plastic Surgery department in the Center for Reconstructive Surgery.
Treatment for tumors of the skull base may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of therapies. Surgeons in the Skull Base Tumor Program use both open and minimally invasive diagnostic and surgical approaches, depending on each patient's unique characteristics. For patients with tumors that are responsive to irradiation, radiation oncologists plan three-dimensional treatment algorithms for the precise delivery of radiation therapy. And with MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center, proton radiation therapy now provides an additional treatment option for patients with specific tumors that are well suited to this innovative, state-of-the-art therapy.
BY Julie Penne
Eight miles in the air while piloting a flight from New Jersey to Houston, Gerald Ahrens’ life took an unexpected turn.
“I got a nosebleed that just wouldn’t stop,” says Ahrens, who flies charter and corporate jets. “Something just wasn’t right.”
That nosebleed 10 years ago was the beginning of a whirlwind journey that brought Ahrens to MD Anderson. Here, doctors found he had squamous cell cancer in his sinus cavity — the hollow, air-filled spaces in the bones around the nose.
Now 68 and cancer free, Ahrens was one of the early patients to benefit from MD Anderson’s Skull Base Tumor Program, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Bringing together neurosurgeons, head and neck surgeons, radiation oncologists and other health care professionals, the program treats patients who develop tumors at the base or “floor” of the skull, where the brain sits. This region includes the area behind the eyes and nose.
Franco DeMonte, M.D., who helped pioneer the program, says not all skull base tumors are cancerous, but all are rare and complex.
“Treating skull base tumors is challenging because they are very close to critical nerves and blood vessels in the brain, head, neck and spinal cord,” says DeMonte, professor in Neurosurgery. “Surgeons must carefully work around these delicate structures without damaging them.”