Health Care

Health system opens region's 'first' Brain & Spine Tumor Center

November 25, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Health system opens region's 'first' Brain & Spine Tumor Center
Dr. Wendy Sherman. Courtesy Spectrum Health

A health system said Monday that it has opened the “first comprehensive” Brain & Spine Tumor Center in West Michigan.

The Spectrum Health Brain & Spine Tumor Center in Grand Rapids provides specialized care for patients with central nervous system tumors, brain metastases and neurological complications of cancer.

The Brain & Spine Tumor Center is led by a team of Spectrum Health Medical Group board-certified specialists: Dr. Todd Vitaz, director of neurosurgical oncology; newly hired Dr. Wendy Sherman, West Michigan’s only board certified and fellowship-trained neuro-oncologist and Dr. Kiran Taylor, division chief, psychiatry and behavioral medicine.

Dr. Kenneth J. Fawcett, Jr., interim president of the Spectrum Health Medical Group, said the Brain & Spine Tumor Center “provides the region’s most advanced and innovative treatment options, including new and emerging therapies and protocols that are otherwise unavailable.”

Dr. Vitaz said added that the incidence of "primary brain cancer is increasing across the nation," and the tumor center will improve “the quality and efficiency of care available in West Michigan,” while allowing patients to remain closer to home and family.

The Brain & Spine Tumor Center patient clinics are at the Spectrum Health Medical Group Neurosurgery offices, at 25 Michigan St. NE, Suite 6100.

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The Brain & Spine Tumor Center provides a range of services: a dedicated neuro-oncology nurse to coordinate care and services for the patient and family or caregivers; a psychiatrist providing behavioral oncology and support services; a neuro-oncology tumor board where multiple specialists determine accurate diagnoses and optimal treatment plans; multi-disciplinary patient clinics, including a dedicated pituitary tumor clinic, where a patient meets with the clinical team to discuss the recommended treatment and care plan in a single visit; advanced imaging, radiation and surgical technologies, including the region’s only high-field intra-operative magnetic resonance imaging for the most complete tumor removal possible and partnerships with referring physicians for initial diagnosis, entire case management or second-opinion consultation.

Dr. Sherman and neuro-oncology

“In the area of neuro-oncology, a clinical expert of Dr. Sherman’s caliber greatly expands access to highly specialized care for patients with brain and spine tumors,” Fawcett said.

Neuro-oncology is a new sub-specialty of neurology, focusing on neurological, medical and oncologic treatments.

Specrrum Health said there are eight accredited neuro-oncology fellowship programs in the U.S., and Sherman is the first neuro-oncologist in West Michigan and one of the few board-certified neuro-oncologists in the nation.

In her role at Spectrum, Sherman will treat patients with primary brain and spine tumors, metastatic tumors that have spread to the brain and the neurologic complications of cancer and its treatment, including migraines, seizures and neuropathy.

“There is a great need by patients in the region for the type of integrated care that the center provides,” Sherman said. “I was attracted by the opportunity to join a team of talented physicians and researchers working together to fulfill that need by developing optimal treatment plans for patients, families and caregivers.”

Sherman’s clinical and research interests include tumors of the brain, such as gliomas and meningiomas, brain metastases, leptomeningeal disease — a rare, but deadly cancer complication — and epilepsy secondary to brain tumors.

Her neuro-oncology fellowship training included work with patients involved in clinical trials using novel treatments for primary and metastatic brain tumors, and her research is published in the field.

Sherman earned her medical degree from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, where she also completed her neurology residency, serving as chief resident, and fellowship in neuro-oncology.

While completing her training in Chicago, Sherman treated many patients from West Michigan.

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