New Treatment for Breast Cancer that has Spread to the Brain

When people hear “breast cancer,” they don’t usually think of the disease affecting the brain. But it can happen and when it does it’s called metastatic breast cancer. It can occur when women are first diagnosed, but more commonly it metastasizes, or spreads, months or years after the initial treatment has been completed. In the past, treatment options were limited, but today there’s new hope.

Many people are living for years after a metastatic brain cancer diagnosis thanks to progress in medicine. According to the National Cancer Institute, a new study shows that the number of women in the United States living with metastatic breast cancer is growing while mortality rates are decreasing due to improvements in treatment.

One of the latest and most revolutionary advances is a new device called the Leksell Gamma Knife® Icon™ stereotactic radiosurgery system, which can enhance life for patients with cancer that has spread to the brain.

Gamma Knife Icon is the only technology with micro-radiosurgery capabilities, meaning it can treat virtually any part of the brain, even the most hard-to-reach areas, with pinpoint accuracy—enabling treatment for thousands of patients both with and without a headframe.

“The sophistication of this technology is staggering,” said Renee Levine, MD, medical director of the Cancer Center’s Gamma Knife Icon Program. “It gives us the power to essentially hit a target the size of a pea through a concrete wall, without damaging anything sitting next to the pea. This finesse allows us to hit our targets without damaging the brain—the organ that makes us who we are.”

With the precision and accuracy of the Gamma Knife Icon, a tiny tumor (similar in size to a pea) that is blocked by bone and healthy tissue can be targeted while keeping healthy brain matter untouched.

For the Cancer Center, Gamma Knife Icon is the latest tool enhancing the comprehensive approach we truly abide by – working hard to find highly individualized treatment plans for metastatic breast cancer, as well as every other unique condition.

Learn more about the Gamma Knife Icon at