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spine surgery, MISS

The Penn Spine Center offers individuals with spinal tumors leading edge, comprehensive treatment from the most experienced and highly skilled surgeons and physicians across many different specialties.

Treating spinal tumors requires the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of spine surgeons, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists, rehabilitation physicians and pain management physicians. Treatment options will depend on the location of the spinal tumor (whether it is located in the spinal cord or spinal column), the progression of the disease and any other health factors that may affect an individual’s treatment plan.

Our spinal tumor board meets weekly and consists of the world’s leading experts in spinal tumor diagnosis and treatment. The tumor board carefully evaluates each spinal tumor case and collaborates to develop individualized treatment plans that result in optimal patient outcomes.

Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center offers different treatment options for spinal cord and spinal column tumors. Treatment options vary depending on the type of tumor. 

Treatment options for spinal tumors may include:

Surgical Removal

Depending on the type of tumor, surgery may be the most effective and best treatment option. During spinal tumor surgery, surgeons resect (remove) the spinal tumor and stabilize the spine. Sometimes, when surgeons remove a tumor, they have to remove part of the structural support of the spine and then repair it. Surgeons work together to both stabilize and reconstruct the spine where the tumor was removed.


TumorGlow® is a type of intraoperative molecular imaging that relies on an injectable dye that has been specially engineered to accumulate in cancerous tissues. When patients are injected with this special dye, cancers cells “glow” under near-infrared light, allowing surgeons to see exactly where the cancer is located in the body. Cancer cells or tissue that may have been previously undetected can now be seen. TumorGlow technology allows for early detection, safer surgeries and greater precision and accuracy to remove all cancerous tissue during surgery. 

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells, keep them from growing further or shrink a tumor prior to surgery. 

Stereotactic radiosurgery

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a type of radiation surgery used to treat brain and spinal tumors that do not respond well to standard radiation treatment. Stereotactic radiosurgery uses powerful, highly focused and precise radiation to shrink and destroy tumor tissue, spare healthy surrounding tissue and involves no incisions. In the past, more invasive surgical techniques were required to remove tumors that were radiation-resistant. Now, with the effectiveness of stereotactic radiosurgery, surgeons are able to treat tumors successfully without operating, resulting in better outcomes and quicker recovery times.  

There are several stereotactic radiosurgery systems available at Penn to treat brain and spinal tumors including:

  • GammaKnife
  • Edge Radiosurgery
  • CyberKnife

Proton Therapy: External beam radiotherapy that works by aiming energized particles, in this case protons, onto the target tumor. Because of the accuracy of the beam, proton therapy delivers a higher dose of treatment directly to the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue. 

Trans-Oral Robotic (TORS)

TORS is the world's first minimally invasive robotic surgery technique that allows surgeons to remove benign and malignant tumors of the head, neck and spine. 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.


Chemotherapy is the use of chemical agents to destroy cancer cells. In addition to destroying cancer cells in the bloodstream or other areas of the body, it can also decrease the size of the spinal tumor. The major advantage of chemotherapy is its ability to treat widespread or metastatic cancer, whereas surgery and radiation therapy are limited to treating cancers that are confined to specific areas.

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