The Center for Spinal Tumors

The Washington University Center for Spinal Tumors, led by Jacob Buchowski, MD, MS, Professor of Orthopaedic and Neurological Surgery, provides comprehensive, specialized care to patients with tumors of the spine.

Spinal tumors can be broadly classified into two categories: metastatic spinal tumors and primary spinal tumors.

Metastatic spinal tumors originate somewhere else in the body (for example, the breast, lung, prostate, or kidney) and spread to the spine where they can cause fractures and/or compression of the spinal cord or nerves. Despite advancements in cancer care, metastatic spinal tumors are very common: of the 1.2 million patients that are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year, between 10 and 30% will have symptomatic spread of cancer to the spine when they are diagnosed. The types of cancer that are most likely to result in spinal metastases include breast cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, and thyroid cancer.

Unlike metastatic spinal tumors, primary spinal tumors originate within the spine. They are quite rare and account for only 0.04% of all tumors and 10% of all bone tumors. Primary spinal tumors can either be benign or malignant. Some of the benign primary spinal tumors include: osteoid osteoma, osteoblastoma, aneurysmal bone cyst, and giant cell tumor. Some of the malignant primary spinal tumors include: osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, chordoma, as well as multiple myeloma and lymphoma.

Although many metastatic spinal tumors can be treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, some metastatic spinal tumors require surgical treatment. Surgery can range from a minimally invasive procedure such as cement augmentation to prevent or treat a fracture (i.e. vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty) to complex reconstruction depending on the severity of cancer involvement. As surgical techniques have improved over the years, surgery for metastatic spinal tumors has become more common. Unlike metastatic spinal tumors, many of which do not require surgery, the vast majority of malignant primary spinal tumors require surgical treatment. Benign primary spinal tumors also frequently require surgical intervention, although sometimes they can be treated nonoperatively.

For a consultation, please contact the Center for Spinal Tumors by calling (314) 747-4950 during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday).

Treatment Approach

Historically, patients diagnosed with spinal tumors have been required to coordinate their care from a variety of sources while confronting an uncertain future and a confusing array of choices. The Washington University Center for Spinal Tumors, headed by Jacob Buchowski, MD, MS, Professor of Orthopaedic and Neurological Surgery, provides comprehensive, specialized care to patients with tumors of the spine. The center provides the expertise and comprehensive care necessary to effectively treat these complex situations with radiation, chemotherapy or surgery, as appropriate.

For a consultation, please contact the Center for Spinal Tumors by calling (314) 747-4950 during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday).

Research & Clinical Trials

Dr. Jacob Buchowski is currently conducting research on functional and radiographic outcomes following surgical treatment of spinal tumors. In addition, Dr. Buchowski, in collaboration with physicians at the Siteman Cancer Center, is conducting research on novel radiation therapy treatments and their role in management of spinal tumors.

For information on current clinical trials related to orthopedics, or to make an appointment with a specialist with Washington University Orthopedics, please call (314) 514-3500 or toll free (866) 867-3627.

Meet Our Team

Jacob Buchowski, MD, MS

Professor of Orthopaedic and Neurological Surgery
Director, Center for Spinal Tumors
Director, Washington University Spine Fellowship

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Patient Stories

Mary Martinez

Mary Martinez - Spinal Tumor

Mary Martinez is back to bowling and golfing and is “doing fantastic,” though she says she’s under doctor’s orders not to lift refrigerators or break up concrete. Just one year ago, the 60-year-old Martinez was treated for lung cancer that had metastasized to her spine, and Jacob Buchowski, MD, MS, had to implant two artificial vertebrae to replace those that had been consumed by cancer.

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