Partners HealthCare Biobank – Advancing Personalized Medicine

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 19, 2015

20140404; Friday, April 4, 2014, Boston, MA, USA; Partners HealthCare Biobank leaders Susan A. Slaugenhaupt, MD, and Elizabeth Wood Karlson, MD, talk about the promise of the Biobank project in Dr. Slaugenhaupt's lab space inside the Massachusetts General Hospital Simches Research Building Friday morning April 4, 2014. background: "The Partners HealthCare Biobank is a large research program designed to help researchers understand how people’s health is affected by their genes, lifestyle, and environment. The Biobank collects and maintain samples and information from individuals who receive their care at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital. These materials will be used in research to better understand many different diseases." ~ adapted from Partners website Partners HealthCare annual report project with Hill Holliday ( 2014 © lightchaser photography )

Partners HealthCare Biobank leaders Dr. Elizabeth W. Karlson (left) and Dr. Susan A. Slaugenhaupt.

The Partners HealthCare Biobank is a program designed to help researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and other Partners HealthCare institutions understand how people’s health is affected by their genes, lifestyle, and environment.

By understanding a patient’s genetic makeup, physicians can screen more aggressively for diseases that their patients are predisposed to and develop plans to reduce the chances of developing specific diseases. Ultimately, the goal is to define and classify subgroups of patients based on how they respond to certain treatments, which will help physicians choose the best medications for individuals. This is known as personalized medicine.

Read More »

Comprehensive Spine Care: Surgical and Non-Surgical Treatment

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 6, 2014

Treating back pain can be very challenging, requiring the expertise and coordination of more than one medical specialty.

Certain spinal conditions, such as back pain, are very common. However, treating these conditions can be very challenging, requiring the expertise and coordination of more than one medical specialty, including physical medicine, pain management, and surgery.

“Back pain is a very common complaint, but a very non-specific complaint. Back pain and leg pain can be caused by many different things, including spinal stenosis, disk herniations, and instability. The procedures that we offer are really tailored to the specific patient with a specific disorder, based on imaging and exam,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chrisotopher Bono, Co-Director, Brigham and Women’s Comprehensive Spine Center.

To ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment for spinal disorders, patients who are referred to the Brigham and Women’s Comprehensive Spine Center are evaluated with state-of-the-art diagnostic procedures and imaging. Often, the first step is conservative, non-operative treatment by physiatrists, pain management physicians, and other specialists.

Read More »

Meningiomas: Five Things You Should Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 30, 2014

A meningioma may reach a relatively large size before it causes symptoms.

Contributor: Ian Dunn, MD, is a neurosurgeon in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dunn’s interests include surgery for meningiomas, chordomas, and other skull base tumors.

A meningioma is a type of tumor that develops from the meninges, the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Most meningiomas (90 percent) are categorized as benign tumors, with the remaining 10 percent being atypical or malignant. In many cases, benign meningiomas grow slowly. This means that depending upon where it is located, a meningioma may reach a relatively large size before it causes symptoms.

Meningiomas account for about 27 percent of primary brain tumors, making them the most common tumor of that type. Here are some common questions about meningiomas, with answers from our neurosurgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH):

What are the risk factors of meningiomas?

Meningiomas are most common in people between the ages of 40 and 70, and are more common in women than in men. Meningiomas are very rare in children, with pediatric cases accounting for only 1.5 percent of the total. There are not many predisposing factors associated with the development of meningiomas, but a few include:

Read More »

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Makes the Honor Roll

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 3, 2013

For the 21st consecutive year, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been named to the U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals.

For the 21st consecutive year, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been named to the U.S. News & World Report’s Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals, ranking ninth. The Honor Roll highlights just 18 hospitals, out of nearly 5,000 nationwide, for their breadth and depth of clinical excellence.  We’ve gathered some recent blog posts from our ranked clinical categories to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of our doctors, nurses, researchers, and others.

#2 Gynecology

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology supports women through all stages of their lives – from planning a family to childbirth, menopause, and beyond.

Read More »

A Case of Mistaken Identity: Hydrocephalus Mimics Dementia

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 2, 2013

Hydrocephalus is characterized by walking difficulty, trouble with bladder control, and dementia.

After college, raising a family, and building a successful business, Susan and Rick Sontag were living normal lives until things took an unexpected turn. One morning in 1994, Susan awoke with a serious headache. She was confused and unable to remember simple things. After a series of tests, Susan was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. In an attempt to save her life, Susan underwent an experimental treatment. Miraculously, she survived. As a result of their experience, Susan and Rick started The Sontag Foundation, which has given over $40 million to support brain tumor research and other worthy causes.

But Susan’s miraculous victory appeared to have come at a high personal cost. Over the years following her treatment, she developed increasing difficulty walking and eventually required the use of canes and wheelchairs. Although she lost much of her short-term memory at the time the brain tumor was discovered, her family, friends, and doctors noticed a continuing decline in her other cognitive skills. Everyone assumed that her symptoms were side-effects of her brain tumor treatment and that nothing more could be done.

That was until a January 2013 scientific retreat, sponsored by The Sontag Foundation. Rick and Susan sat next to Dr. Mark Johnson, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital brain tumor neurosurgeon and scientist whose research had been supported by the Sontag Foundation nearly ten years earlier. Dr. Johnson too had observed Susan’s slow decline over the years; however, at the scientific retreat she seemed more affected than ever. Dr. Johnson recognized a pattern in her symptoms and asked Rick if she had ever been screened for a common but little known disorder called normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). She had not.

Read More »

New Test May Help Brain Tumor Patients During and After Surgery

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 21, 2013

A new brain imaging tool may, in a matter of seconds, classify tumors and identify their boundaries.

Dr. Harvey Cushing, regarded as the founder of modern neurosurgery, was appointed Surgeon-in-Chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (then Peter Bent Brigham Hospital) in 1911. He is recognized for developing new surgical techniques that improved the care and survival of brain tumor patients. Since Dr. Cushing’s time, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) physicians have continued to advance new treatments for brain tumor patients. The latest is a new test that promises to improve the precision of brain tumor removal.

“Tumor tissue within the brain often closely resembles normal brain tissue and may have indistinct boundaries, so it is difficult to determine where tumors end and brain tissue begins,” says Dr. Alexandra Golby, Director of Image-Guided Neurosurgery in the Department of Neurosurgery at BWH, and Clinical Co-Director of BWH’s Advanced Multi-Modality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) suite.

When removing brain tumors, surgeons want to preserve as much normal brain tissue as possible in their patients, especially when tumors are located in areas of the brain that control important functions like movement, speaking, or vision. However, determining the border between normal brain tissue and areas of brain tumor can often be difficult and uncertain.

Read More »

Stimulating the Brain to Stop Tremors

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 31, 2012

You are sitting at a restaurant having dinner. Feeling thirsty, you reach for your water glass on the table. You grab and lift the glass, but your hand is shaking uncontrollably. Minutes pass, but even with much effort you are unable to steady your hand enough to bring the glass to your mouth to drink.

Essential tremor – a neurological movement disorder that causes involuntary shaking of the hands, head, and voice – affects millions of Americans and is common in people over the age of 65. It can greatly impact activities of daily living, like eating, dressing, writing, or typing.


“Medications can be used to help treat essential tremor and other movement disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, but they are not always effective or may lose effectiveness over time,” says Dr. Michael Hayes, Neurological Director for Functional Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).“They also can carry significant side effects.”

Read More »