Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Six Pillar Approach for brain cancer

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is now offering minimally invasive surgery for patients with deep subcortical brain tumors. This “Six Pillar Approach,” integrates several advancements in neurosurgery to resect otherwise inoperable brain tumors

CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern), our hospital in suburban Chicago, is among the first hospitals in the country to offer this specialized procedure.

What is the Six Pillar Approach?

The Six Pillar Approach allows doctors to resect tumors located in the deep subcortical regions of the brain through an opening as small as a dime.

The Six Pillar Approach is comprised of the following components:

  1. Brain mapping
  2. GPS navigation technology
  3. Sophisticated optics
  4. BrainPath®
  5. Resection
  6. Targeted approach

Dr. Juan Alzate, neurosurgeon at Midwestern, is trained in performing this minimally invasive procedure.

“With the Six Pillar Approach to neurosurgery, we are able to provide additional options to patients with hard to reach tumors in the brain. For some patients, this means that a tumor previously considered inoperable, may now be removed surgically.”

“This approach to brain surgery also brings the medical profession one step closer to better understanding the genetic makeup of tumors so we can develop personalized treatments,” says Dr. Alzate.

How does the Six Pillar Approach work?

During the procedure, surgeons access the brain through an opening the size of a dime, and use brain mapping, GPS navigation technology and a tool called the BrainPath® to safely move through the natural folds and delicate fibers of the brain to reach the tumor. Once the BrainPath is in place, it creates a clear passageway for surgeons to maintain access to the tumor. They then use a tool the size of a pencil to resect or remove the mass.

Surgeons then collect and preserve tissue for pathological evaluation. In the future, researchers hope to use the samples collected to advance research and the development of personalized treatment options tailored to a patient’s unique cancer type.

What are the potential benefits of the Six Pillar Approach?

Subcortical brain tumors have been historically difficult to access due to the risks associated with traveling through the brain to the tumor location, which may result in memory loss or disruptions to speech and movement.

This procedure significantly reduces these risks by using computer guided navigation and allowing the surgeon to displace tissue, rather than cut it, as he or she gains access to the tumor site. This helps to lower the risk of damage to healthy brain tissue and to lower the risk of complications from surgery. For most patients, this can mean significantly improved quality of life.

Achieving greater tumor resection can also extend life expectancy for some patients. It can help minimize some of the serious side effects of brain tumors, such as loss of speech, sight and mobility, and improve quality of life.

Since the surgery is minimally invasive, patients are generally able to leave the hospital within one to two days following surgery, and can resume limited activities shortly after.

Who is eligible for the Six Pillar Approach?

Currently, this approach is being used to treat patients with malignant primary brain tumors known as glioblastomas, as well as patients with metastatic cancer that has traveled to the brain from other parts of the body.  This procedure is used to treat tumors located deep in the brain. 

Where is the Six Pillar Approach being offered?

CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center near Chicago is the first hospital in Illinois, and one of only about a dozen hospitals in the nation, to pioneer the Six Pillar Approach.

Learn more about