When brain cancer comes back, it is known as a brain tumor recurrence. A recurrence can happen shortly after the original cancer is treated, or it can happen several years after treatment has been completed. A recurrence can develop in the same part of the brain as the original tumor, or it can develop elsewhere in the central nervous system.
Because recurrence is always a possibility, a patient will typically be monitored after the first round of treatment. This way, if the cancer does come back, it be detected and addressed as early as possible.
In most cases, treatment for a brain tumor recurrence will be different than it was the first time around. At Moffitt Cancer Center, each patient’s unique case is reviewed by our multispecialty tumor board, where an individualized treatment plan is developed to address the recurrence. Our collaborative tumor board may recommend:
- Resection – Surgical removal of a tumor may be an option, but the choice for surgery usually is reserved for those with symptoms related to mass effect, when the diagnosis is unclear, or if there is a treatment that involves surgery.
- Chemotherapy – Anti-cancer medications may also be used, but oncologists will typically recommend a different drug (or combination of drugs) than they used for the first round of treatment. Localized chemotherapy, in which medications are introduced into the brain during surgery, may also be considered.
- Radiation therapy – Exposure to ionizing radiation can help shrink a tumor or reduce the symptoms associated with the mass.
These treatments can provide notable benefits for patients with a brain tumor recurrence, but because recurrent brain tumors can be resistant to many therapies, many patients choose to enroll in clinical trials as part of their second-line treatment. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we have a robust array of clinical trials that can help patients with recurrent brain cancer access promising new therapies, such as biological therapies and immunotherapies that aren’t yet available in other settings. Participation in a clinical trial may lead to a more favorable prognosis and a better quality of life for a patient.
"Clinical trials, when available, should be considered an essential part of the care for recurrent brain tumors"- Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, Program Leader, Department of Neuro-Oncology and Chief of Neurosurgery
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, Program Leader, Department of Neuro-Oncology and Chief of Neurosurgery