Skull Base Tumor Treatment

Dr. Lee

When tumors arise in the skull base, they present unique challenges that require the expertise of highly experienced surgeons and physicians who understand the complexities involved with treatment and care. At Penn Head and Neck Cancer, individuals have access to otorhinolaryngologists, neuro-oncologists and neurosurgeons who are the best in their field. Our team has pioneered and developed the latest minimally invasive surgical techniques for the removal of skull base tumors, and U.S. News & World Report ranked Penn Medicine one of the highest in the region for the treatment of ear, nose, and throat disorders. Our combined expertise allows us to offer the best possible outcomes and improved quality of life for those with benign and malignant skull base tumors.

Non-surgical treatment for benign and malignant skull base tumors may include:

  • Neurophysiological monitoring to provide real-time information about brain and nerve function resulting in increased safety and decreased length of surgery.
  • The use of microcatheters and angiography to improve the ability to see vessels during surgery and thus, reduce blood loss.
  • Cerebral blood flow studies
  • Super selective angiography for precise understanding of the location and size of cranial base tumors, critical to treatment planning.
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Proton therapy

Surgery for Skull Base Tumors:

The team at Penn Head and Neck Cancer are bringing new hope to those who have been diagnosed with skull base tumors previously thought to be inoperable. 
The Penn Medicine Center for Head and Neck Cancer performs over 500 skull base surgeries a year and is the Philadelphia region’s premier center for the evaluation and treatment of all types of complex benign and malignant skull base tumors. Having pioneered and implemented the latest innovative and modern surgical techniques, our approach minimizes external incisions, helps with quicker recovery time and greatly improves patient outcomes. 

Surgery for benign and malignant skull base tumors may include:

Advanced Microscopic, Laser and Ultrasonic Techniques

Advanced microscopic, laser and ultrasound techniques are used to treat certain types of tumors that are buried deep within the skull base. These techniques allow surgeons to remove these tumors in less time, decrease the risk of complications, use minimal anesthesia and a reduce the possibility of damage to surrounding healthy brain and nerve tissue.

Restorative and Reconstructive Facial and Skull Base Surgery

Our reconstructive surgeons use the latest plastic surgery and restorative techniques to give our patients the best possible functional outcomes and cosmetic results. Techniques such as microvascular reconstruction, nerve and muscle grafting, facial reanimation and soft tissue restoration are implemented as an important part of an individuals treatment plan.

Open Craniofacial Skull Base Surgery 

When necessary, Head and Neck surgeons may perform open skull surgery for some skull base tumor cases. This procedure may require incisions in the facial area and in the skull and may involve removal of certain of bones so that the tumor can be reached and removed. Advanced imaging is often used for open skull surgery.

Gamma Knife

Gamma Knife is a method of radiosurgery that delivers 201 individual and highly focused beams of cobalt radiation to precise targets in the brain. Individually, the beams are too weak to damage healthy tissue. Together, they converge to deliver precise and extremely powerful treatment to a single point in order to effectively treat complex skull base tumors.

TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS)

TORS is the world's first minimally invasive robotic surgery technique that allows surgeons to remove benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck. TORS was invented and developed at Penn Medicine by the pioneering team of Bert W. O'Malley, Jr., MD and Gregory S. Weinstein, MD. TORS allows individuals to undergo significantly reduced radiation therapy, results in less scarring and risk of infection, reduces recovery time, shortens hospital stays and greatly reduces the risk of complications compared to traditional open surgery. 

Penn’s Personalized Genetics and Tumor Tissue Bank

Penn Medicine in collaboration with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), have established a tumor and gene bank dedicated to sinonasal and skull base tumors. Banked tissue can be used to further research and create new clinical trials that can lead to more effective treatment options. Patients who have banked tissue will have access to potential new treatments and therapies that can result in improvement of their condition and quality of life. Penn researchers will be able to use the data and genetic profiles of each individual tumor type to target it for treatment, with patient tailored chemotherapy, immunotherapy or other non-surgical treatments. Additionally, should a tumor recur, Penn physicians will be able to screen for new developments in targeted therapy that may allow for new treatments and avoid additional surgeries.