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Spinal Tumor & Brain Tumor Treatment

There are times when the right “surgery” for a tumor of the brain or spine is not surgery at all but rather focused radiation. UNC is pleased to offer patients access to both the UNC CyberKnife® and the UNC TomoTherapy® Centers as therapeutic strategies for appropriate lesions.


The rationale of all focused radiation is to deliver radiation very precisely so that a majority of the radiation goes into the tumor or target rather than into surrounding normal structures. For example, the CyberKnife works by focusing between one- and two-hundred radiation beams on a single point. Much like the spokes of a bicycle tire all converge on the axel, the beams of the CyberKnife all converge on a single point. The patient’s tumor or other lesion is brought into this site and with careful computer planning and expert planning from the team of radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons, precise radiation treatment strategy can be employed.

This type of focused radiation is particularly useful for tumors such as brain metastasis (brain tumors which have come from lung tumors, breast tumors, melanomas or other cancers), arteriovenous malformations, and in the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia. We’ve been performing radiosurgery at UNC since the late 1980s and have treated thousands of patients with this technology.

The UNC CyberKnife has been operational since 2007. The main benefits include the fact that radiation is delivered without use of a stereotactic head frame. This spares patients from undergoing the fixation of the skull with local anesthesia and pins. The CyberKnife also has the flexibility to treat lesions outside the brain. Our team treats lesions in the brain, eye, head, neck, lungs, liver, pancreas, ovaries and uterus, among other sites.

UNC also has access to the UNC TomoTherapy Unit which provides treatment strategies based on delivery with CT scanning. This allows additional accuracy in treatment of tumors. You and your neurosurgeon can discuss which treatment is most appropriate for you.