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Neuro-Oncology Program

Pediatric brain tumors are the second most common cancer in children, with approximately 3,000 brain tumors diagnosed in the United States each year. The neurosurgeons at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are experienced in operating on children with both benign and malignant tumors of the brain and spinal cord. Advances are being made in the treatment and survival of patients with these tumors thanks to the work of Connecticut Children’s investigators and physicians.

Knowing the Signs

Brain tumors in children are often very different from those in adults, in cell type, presentation and responsiveness to treatment. Because a child’s brain is still developing, it is important for a child or adolescent to receive diagnosis and treatment from a physician team specializing in pediatric brain tumors.

Tumors present in a variety of ways depending on their location in the brain. The most common signs and symptoms are headache and vomiting due to elevated intracranial pressure. In infants and young children, irritability or a fontanel that is fuller than normal may signal elevated intracranial pressure. Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Motor weakness
  • Sensory changes
  • Personality changes
  • Unsteady gait
  • Difficulty with muscle control
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Vision changes
  • Speech problems
  • Endocrine disorders

Advanced Treatments


  • Intraoperative frameless stereotactic guidance
  • Minimally invasive treatments to include endoscopic subcranial and intracranial approaches
  • Endoscopic subcranial and intracranial approaches
  • Inpatient monitoring unit providing continuous electroencephalographic monitoring and extraoperative functional mapping


  • Personalized medicine – Connecticut Children’s cancer genomic researchers are working hard in the lab to develop “targeted therapies” for our cancer patients with solid tumors. Our team of investigators is working to discover novel ways to specifically target cancer cells with minimal damage to healthy tissue. Using DNA sequencing to read the complete genetic code, or genome, of solid tumors in cancer patients we are using targeted treatments to achieve optimal outcomes for our patients

Teaming Together to Treat Brain Tumors in Children and Adolescents

With a family-centered approach, the team treats a variety of brain and spinal tumors, including:

  • Medulloblastoma (primitive neuroectodermal tumor)
  • Astrocytoma
  • Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
  • Ependymoma
  • Choroid plexus papilloma and carcinoma
  • Atypical teratoid-rhabdoid tumor (ATRT)
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ganglioglioma
  • Dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumor (DNET)
  • Germ cell tumors

Our Approach to Treatment

Physicians with the Neuro-Oncology program partner with patients and families to deliver the best treatment tailored to children with brain and spinal tumors. In addition, the patient’s pediatrician will stay updated throughout the child’s care.

The program includes:

  • Comprehensive care – provided by subspecialists from pediatric neuro-oncology, pediatric neurosurgery, pediatric endocrinology, radiation oncology, neuroradiology, neuropathology, interventional neuroradiology, and endonasal sinus surgery.
  • Continuity of care – for the diagnosis and treatment of late effects through our REACH for the STARS Survivorship Program
  • Innovative research – the lab of Markus Bookland, MD is working to develop a simple blood test to detect tumor biomarkers. This work would allow primary care providers to diagnose tumors prior to the development of symptoms, potentially allowing for the discovery and treatment of tumors when they are more easily treated.
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