Medical Therapy

Cath Lab

Some brain tumors are treated with medicine (drugs) to kill cancer cells. This is called medical therapy or chemotherapy. This type of brain tumor treatment can kill cancer cells that could not be removed with surgery, slow the growth of brain tumor cells or help reduce brain cancer symptoms.

You might have medical therapy if cancer spreads to your brain from another area of the body (metastatic brain cancer). If your brain cancer recurs (comes back) after treatment, you might have medical therapy. Some primary brain tumors (tumors that start in the brain) are also treated with cancer-fighting drugs.  

Medical therapy for brain tumors is usually given after surgery. It is sometimes given along with radiation therapy.

Anti-cancer drugs used in medical therapy for brain cancer can be given as a pill, through a vein or as an injection (shot). If you have chemotherapy for brain cancer, your medical oncologist will determine the type of medicine you take, how you receive it and how long you need treatment.

Types of Medical Therapy
for Brain Cancer

Medical therapy uses two types of drugs. Medicines that kill cancer cells are called cytotoxic drugs. These drugs also affect healthy cells. Drugs that keep cancer cells from reproducing are called cytostatic drugs. Also called targeted therapies, these drugs destroy cancer cells without affecting healthy cells as much. Targeted therapies keep cancer from growing and spreading, and are more commonly used to treat brain tumors.

Depending on the type of brain tumor you have, your general health and other factors, your medical oncologist will help determine which medicine is right for you.

Support for Brain Cancer
Treatment Side Effects

At the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, your cancer care team is here to support you through every stage of your brain cancer treatment. If you have side effects from medical therapy (chemotherapy), our medical oncology team can provide supportive care. This includes:

  • Pain medications
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Electrolyte supplements and electrolyte balance

OHSU Blood-Brain Barrier Program for Medical Brain Cancer Therapy

Most medical therapy is given as a pill or injected into the bloodstream. Treating brain cancer this way can be difficult. Your body’s circulation system separates fluid circulating in the bloodstream from fluid circulating to the brain. This is called the blood-brain barrier.

For more than 20 years, the OHSU Blood Brain Barrier program has been developing ways to treat brain cancer with medical therapy, giving new hope to patients with brain tumors. The program includes doctors, nurses, neuropsychologists and researchers. Learn more

The Blood Brain Barrier program aims to help people with brain cancer live longer and better lives. If you work with the Blood Brain Barrier program, you will receive care for your medical concerns and your emotional, personal and psychological needs.