Summer 2012

Pediatric Brain Center Advances Standard of Care

When a brain tumor patient, who underwent successful radiation therapy presented to UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital with a stroke, concern for the patient's health led physician scientists to an important research topic: Does radiation therapy increase stroke risk in survivors of childhood cancer? And, if so, can screening and counseling effectively reduce the risks?

A stroke neurologist, neuro-oncologist and radiation oncologist came together as a team to rapidly develop a research project, which included collaboration with the longitudinal Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (CCSS). In a few short years, the UCSF and CCSS studies established that these children were at higher and prolonged risk of stroke as they entered young adulthood.

In turn, when the original patient returned to UCSF for her regular follow-up, UCSF neuro-oncologists had changed practice to include screening adolescent cancer survivors for stroke risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and cerebral arteriopathy, using a magnetic resonance angiogram), as well as counseling about pertinent health habits.

Uniquely Coordinated Care for Children's Brains

This story illustrates the value of UCSF's unique Pediatric Brain Center (PBC), which coordinates the work of multiple specialty centers, clinics and research efforts. Experts include :

  • Neurologists
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Intensive care physicians
  • Physiatrists
  • Neurogeneticists
  • Neuro-oncologists
  • Neuroradiologists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Pediatricians

Dr. Heather Fullerton

Dr. Heather Fullerton

The center offers clinically integrated care to children with a wide range of neurological disorders and creates a tight translational research loop. Questions generated from the bedside at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital will move rapidly to the UCSF research community, and as results come in, the answers go back to the clinical team.

"Our goal is to advance the standard of care and ensure our patients are the first beneficiaries," says neurologist Heather Fullerton, M.D., medical director of the PBC.

Easing the Burden on Families

Dr. Nalin Gupta

Dr. Nalin Gupta

"Another of our main priorities is to better coordinate care and make it easier for referring physicians and families," says Nalin Gupta, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery and surgical director of the PBC. He notes that the multidisciplinary nature of pediatric brain care can make it hard for families to navigate the system, especially those traveling from afar.

To take some of the burden off families, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital offers a single intake number and a concierge service, with nurses and physicians conducting triage and coordinating care for complex brain disease.

The PBC also offers access to services that are hard to find elsewhere. For example:

  • Leading neuroradiologists use cutting-edge imaging tools, including functional imaging, for diagnosis.
  • Neuropsychologists conduct cognitive assessments and work with referring physicians, families and schools to ease reintegration after treatment.

The scheduled 2015 opening of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital at Mission Bay will enhance these advantages, as the new facility will be within yards of the UCSF Neurosciences Research Building, which houses 100 teams of neuroscientists.

"Having top specialists working collaboratively in close proximity with each other can make an enormous difference in children's lives," Gupta says.

For more information, contact Dr. Heather Fullerton at (415) 353-3681 or Dr. Nalin Gupta at (415) 353-7500.

Pediatric Brain Center Programs

  • Autism and Neurodevelopment
  • Brain Tumors
  • Cerebrovascular Disease
  • Dyslexia and Language Disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Fetal Brain Care
  • Migraine
  • Movement Disorders
  • Neurocritical Care
  • Newborn Brain Injury
  • Pain
  • Palliative Care
  • Psychiatry
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spina Bifida
  • Stem Cell Therapy
  • Stroke
  • Tic Disorders


Summer 2012 Table of Contents

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Related Information

News Releases

Measuring Bone Age for Crohn's Disease in Children
Measuring bone age should be a standard practice in the care of children with Crohn's disease, according to a study by researchers at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. It is one way to identify active inflammation and appropriately treat the disease, when other classic intestinal symptoms are not apparent.

UCSF Joins Consortium to Test Pediatric Cancer Drugs
UCSF has been accepted into the Children's Oncology Group Phase 1 Consortium, an elite National Cancer Institute consortium of institutions selected to lead Phase 1 studies of potential pediatric cancer drugs. UCSF is one of only two Phase 1 institutions in California, and one of only 21 centers in the United States and Canada.

Mission Bay Reaches Fundraising Milestone
The new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay achieved a major milestone, surpassing the $400 million mark in philanthropic gifts. This brings the campaign more than two-thirds of the way to its $600 million goal.