Forefront Faculty Feature S imon Hanft, MD is a neurosurgeon who directs the Minimally Invasive Brain Tumor Program as well as the Pituitary Tumor Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. He specializes in the surgical removal of brain and spine tumors, making use of the latest in technological advances to access these tumors through the least invasive approaches. Dr. Hanft, who is also an assistant professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, works with radiation oncologists to utilize gamma knife radiosurgery for those tumors that do not require traditional surgery. DeB B I e VOGeL become the model for how these kinds of tumors are treated. We offer a multitude of specialists in one location, under one roof, who are experienced in handling brain and pituitary tumors. There is more to a brain tumor than just surgical removal, and at Rutgers Cancer Institute we have the neurooncology and radiation oncology specialists that are integral to treating and managing these tumors over the long term. I expect to lead Rutgers Cancer Institute in becoming the highest volume center in New Jersey for tumors of the brain and spine. We have essentially accomplished this already for pituitary tumors, a subset of benign brain tumors. We are quite possibly the highest volume center in the state for these tumors, which we approach through the nose with a high-definition camera known as the endoscope. I perform these surgeries jointly with my otolaryngologist colleague, Kianoush Sheykholeslami, MD, PhD, FACS, who is the director of the Head and Neck Surgery Program. Our minimal approach often leads to shorter hospitalizations and reduced complications. moment, but by no means is such a diagnosis a death sentence. We spend considerable time discussing the tumor and all of the possible ways to treat it – including non-surgical options. Patients never leave here feeling uninformed. Since we have all treatment options available, we don’t endorse one option over another, which can happen at institutions that don’t offer laser ablation or gamma knife, for example. I emphasize to patients the importance of performing safe, well-informed approaches to these tumors. We really do adopt the Hippocratic “first, do no harm” approach to brain tumors here, and I want patients to understand that we are making recommendations with safety at the forefront of our collective thinking. What are you most proud of since you became a faculty member here? Dr. Hanft completed his medical degree at Stanford University, where he also undertook research in neural stem cells while funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His residency training in neurological surgery was done at Columbia University in New york City, the Neurological Institute of New york and ColumbiaPresbyterian Hospital. While a resident, Dr. Hanft’s focus was on the surgical management of brain tumors. He then completed a one year fellowship in neurosurgical oncology at the University of Miami, where he continued his focus on brain tumors including pituitary tumors at one of the highest volume brain tumor centers in the country. Dr. Hanft then joined the faculty at Rutgers where he has continued this emphasis on high quality surgery, performed at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, for tumors of the brain and spine. He shares more about his work. Q: A: I think the overall high quality of care we provide and the trust that we have earned from doctors in the community and hospitals around us, and of course that same trust extends to the patients who have come here and had great outcomes. I believe that patients can tell this is a thorough, honest place where we care about doing the right thing. I Q: What are your aims as a brain and pituitary tumor expert? Q: What should a patient expect if they are diagnosed with a brain or spine tumor and are referred to you? A: I strongly believe that our current system at Rutgers Cancer Institute allows us to A: This kind of diagnosis is obviously a shock to the patient and a real life-altering 6 I Cancer Connection I Summer 2017