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Mischer Neuroscience Institute Extends Patient-specific Brain Tumor Treatment Across Houston

The traditional goal of neuro-oncology has been to ensure that patients live as long as possible with enhanced quality of life. Physicians affiliated with the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth have broader goals: to maximize function through personalized brain tumor treatment, to help patients maintain meaningful lives as much as possible at every stage of treatment and recovery, and to provide collaborative care that brings multidisciplinary medical resources to patients in their own communities. To this end, the Mischer Neuroscience Institute has expanded its comprehensive services across the city, and has grown the program to make this high-level care accessible close to home.

“Personalized brain tumor treatment has been made possible by our capability to identify specific cancer genetic signatures, which allows neuro-oncologists to choose one chemotherapeutic drug over another, a dramatic change in the way we treat primary and metastatic brain tumors,” says fellowship-trained neurooncologist Sigmund Hsu, M.D., an assistant professor in the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at UTHealth.

Carlos Velazquez Journal

Over the past three years, the Mischer Neuroscience Institute has expanded neuro-oncology services once available only at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center to Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital, and most recently to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital.

“Before the discovery of these signatures, we made decisions about treatment based on the location of the tumor in the body and how it looked under the microscope during pathological examination. Advancements made through cancer research have allowed us to move away from the shotgun approach to treatment and have moved us closer to finding the silver bullet.”

Over the past three years, the Mischer Neuroscience Institute has expanded neuro-oncology services once available only at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center to Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital and most recently to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital.

Dr. Hsu was recruited to the Mischer Neuroscience Institute by fellowship-trained neuro-oncologist Jay-Jiguang Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of Neurosurgery.

“Thanks to next-generation sequencing, we understand more about the underlying DNA mutations that drive cancer growth, which has allowed us to adapt treatment to the specific genetics of the tumor,” Dr. Zhu says. “As we learn more, we’re replacing traditional cytotoxic treatments with less toxic, potentially more effective therapies that target changes in a patient’s unique DNA that promote the survival of cancer cells.”

Over the past three years, the Institute has expanded neuro-oncology services once available only at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center to Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital, and most recently to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. Neurologists, neurosurgeons, pain management specialists and radiation oncologists work together through Mischer Neuroscience Associates (MNA) clinics to provide a better end-to-end patient experience and continuum of care.

“This extension of neuro-oncology expertise and capabilities outside the Texas Medical Center has been made possible by the Mischer Neuroscience Institute’s infrastructure expansion and Memorial Hermann’s presence across Houston,” says Amanda Spielman, president of Phytex and vice president of neurosciences at the Memorial Hermann Health System. “Each hospital’s program is based on the needs of the local community, so that residents of North Houston, The Woodlands, Memorial City and Southwest Houston no longer have to make the drive to Houston for clinic visits and certain procedures.

At the same time, the reputation of the Institute and UTHealth has helped us recruit high-quality, high-service physicians who deliver outstanding care at Memorial Hermann’s network of hospitals. Building on a core group of expert academic neuro-oncologists at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and UTHealth, we’ve created multidisciplinary teams that collaborate closely to develop consistent, quality care, regardless of the site of service.”

New additions to the MNA team of renowned neuroscience specialists are radiation oncologist Shariq Khwaja, M.D., Ph.D., at Memorial Hermann Memorial City; neurosurgeon Joseph Cochran, M.D., at Memorial Hermann Southwest; and neurosurgeon Yoshua Esquenazi, M.D., at Memorial Hermann-TMC. “All the physicians on our neurooncology team confer regularly,” says Dr. Zhu. “We discuss each patient to make sure he or she is seen at the right facility and given the appropriate treatment. Being able to triage patients correctly and offer them a high level of quality care is part of the benefit of practicing within an integrated network.”

In addition to its multidisciplinary brain tumor clinics, the Institute offers five specialized neuro-oncology clinics. The Pituitary Tumor and Vision Change Clinic ensures early and precise diagnosis of patients with pituitary and other parasellar tumors. The Skull Base Program at the Institute treats patients with these tumors through minimally invasive endoscopic surgery, when appropriate. At the Brain Metastases Clinic, a team of affiliated neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, radiation oncologists and neuropathologists works closely with referring oncologists to provide personalized and innovative care to patients with brain tumors. Specialists at the Cancer Neurology Clinic treat patients with neurological issues resulting from chemotherapy. At the Neurogenetics Clinic, a genetic counselor identifies genetic risk and explains inheritance patterns, provides education on the natural history of disease, and discusses the risks, benefits and limitations of available genetic testing options.

“Many people return to normal life after cancer treatment but a growing number, as a result of their diagnoses, are learning to cope with a decline in function related either to the disease or to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which have complications of their own,” Dr. Zhu says. “We see a lot of people who are excited to be alive after their cancer treatment, but then they discover they’re living with issues that affect their quality of life.

Developing biological agents with improved efficacy and reduced toxicity is only half the battle,” he says. “Every patient we treat deserves the opportunity to live life in a meaningful way.”

For more information or to refer a patient, call (713) 704-7180 .