Neuro Oncology Clinic Uses Team Approach to Treat Brain Tumors

San Antonio is benefiting from a new clinic at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center. It features a group of doctors devoted to treating patients with brain tumors.

Anita Stadnik, 53, of Austin was working as a Continental flight attendant a year ago when she suffered a seizure on the job. She was rushed to a hospital where a scan revealed an unexpected and terrifying diagnosis.

“They did an MRI immediately and said a had a brain tumor,” Stadnik recalled. “I was in shock. Totally blindsided. I thought ‘this is a mistake.’”

It was no mistake. Her grade four glioblastoma was the size of a 50-cent piece. A University of Texas Health Science Center neurosurgeon removed it. And that’s when the team of doctors at the new CTRC neuro oncology clinic went to work.

“We have to think about surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and emotional support,” said Dr. Andrew Brenner, a UTHSC oncologist. “All of those are critical to the care of patients with brain tumors.”

Stadnik started with six weeks of intense radiation, a process that worked for months. But this kind of brain tumor is stubborn.

“You’re never really out of the woods with grade four cancer in your brain,” Stadnik explained.

Last spring, the tumor returned. Brenner decided to try a different approach, putting Stadnik on an experimental targeted chemotherapy, one designed to cross the blood-brain barrier and attack the tumor site. She travels to San Antonio from Austin for infusions every three weeks. Her latest scans look promising.

“The treatment of brain tumors is not simple,” Brenner said. “It involves a team approach that makes a significant difference in terms of how patients do.”

In the past, many patients like Stadnik would have to go to Houston or out-of-state for comprehensive care. Now, they can stay close to home.

“I wanted to be in my own home, in my own comfort zone,” Stadnik stated. “That was real important to me. I hope to remain cancer free for as long as I can.”

Since it launched last summer, the CTRC’s neuro oncology clinic has treated patients from all over Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana. The doctors involved believe their team approach is helping to extend lives.

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