MGH  Brain Tumor Center MGH Neurosurgical Service
Massachusetts General HospitalHarvard Medical School
MGH Shield Hvd Med Sch Shield Partners Logo
Brain Tumor Research
at Massachusetts General Hospital
BKor2.jpg (15795 bytes)
BKmri2.jpg (14231 bytes)

Lisa Knott couldn't get her glasses clean. No matter how many times she wiped them off, she still saw spots. Concerned about her vision, Lisa went to the eye doctor, who detected a problem and referred her to a general practitioner for a brain scan. Lisa, then 33, was eight months pregnant with her third child. Within days, doctors called her to the hospital to give her and her husband, Tom, some terrible news: Lisa had a brain tumor.

David Berkowitz had gone through a similar experience six months earlier. David, then 34, had just run in the Boston Marathon and seemed to be in excellent health. One day at his office in Manhattan, he started to dial the phone and found that his fingers kept slipping off the keys. His right hand, from his fingertips to his wrist, felt like it was asleep. As David stood up, his arm dragged across his desk, knocking papers to the floor. He knew something was terribly wrong. He took a cab to his doctor's office and had a brain scan that afternoon, canceling a vacation to Italy that he and his wife, Nancy, had planned. Within hours, David found out that he had a brain tumor.

David realized he would need surgery, so he immediately began searching for the best treatment he could find. He was led to Robert Ojemann, MD, a neurosurgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and perhaps the most renowned in the world for removing benign tumors on the covering of the brain.

"I wanted to find the best doctor in the whole world to do this operation," David says."  The consensus opinion was Dr. Ojemann.  "David and Nancy met immediately with Dr. Ojemann, who scheduled surgery. David went through an eight-hour operation and walked out of the hospital a few days later with a clean bill of health.   Within two weeks, he and Nancy were expecting their first child, Sarah Hannah, now 21 months old. David is completely recovered.

Tom Knott was a business acquaintance of David and had visited him at the hospital after his surgery.  When he and Lisa heard the news from their doctor, Tom called David for advice.  Without hesitation, David recommended Dr. Ojemann. 

"When this happened to Lisa, it was incredible irony, but we were lucky to have a friend like David help us through this," Tom says.

Throughout the ordeal, David was at the Knotts' side to lend them support. Three days after Lisa found out about the brain tumor, doctors induced labor, and she gave birth to a healthy girl, Kiley, now 2 years old. Lisa waited nearly three months to recover from childbirth before undergoing the surgery. She went through an 11-hour operation and made a quick recovery. She is now completely recovered.

BK2.jpg (20142 bytes)
From left, David and Nancy Berkowitz, Lisa and Tom Knott

Both David Berkowitz and Lisa Knott believe they are well today because of the skilled care of Dr. Ojemann. The two families created the Berkowitz and Knott Fund for Brain Tumor Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital in honor of Robert G. Ojemann, MD. They have raised substantial support for the Brain Tumor Center and hope to continue to build upon the fund.

"We decided we wanted to give something back so other people won't have to go through the same experience," Tom says. "Eventually, the real hope is to find out what causes brain tumors and to prevent them altogether." 

The Brain Tumor Center and the Molecular Neuro-Oncology Laboratories

BKbrain2.jpg (8887 bytes)The Brain Tumor Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital is dedicated to the highly specialized care of patients with brain tumors. The center offers a distinctive environment where the study of brain tumors combines numerous specialties to deliver sophisticated, compassionate care. Assembled by Robert Ojemann, MD, the center's director, the core group consists of a range of clinicians working under the umbrella of the MGH Cancer Center, from the Departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Radiation Oncology.

The group also works closely with the departments of Neuropathology and Neuroradiology.The Brain Tumor Center is committed to four goals:

  • To provide the highest-quality care to patients with brain tumors;
  • To develop and study new treatments for brain tumor patients;
  • To investigate the mechanisms involved in the formation and growth of brain tumors
  • To educate new brain tumor specialists.

Patients receive the most sophisticated care available. Each week, 30 to 40 specialists -- physicians, nurses and other experts -- meet to discuss new cases and to resolve the complexities of treating current cases. This team approach enables the patient's physician to draw on the expertise and experience of the center's many skilled caregivers when recommending treatment.

BKojemann2.jpg (22905 bytes)
Robert Ojemann, MD, right is one of the world's most renowned brain surgeons.

The Brain Tumor Center works in partnership with the Molecular Neuro-Oncology Laboratories to create a remarkably strong resource for advances in the treatment of brain tumors. Scientists at the center seek to understand the molecular and genetic mechanisms that cause tumors to form and grow within the brain. Physicians then use this information to develop, assess and exploit new therapies for the treatment of tumors. In a major project, clinicians and scientists in the laboratories have focused their energies on understanding the gene mutations involved in the formation and progression of brain tumors. Mapping the pathways of tumor formation is critically important because it gives researchers an improved ability to detect changes in genes or chromosomes and predict whether a patient is likely to respond to treatment. The distinctive nature of the Brain Tumor Center allows for the quickest possible transfer of discoveries made in the laboratory to treatments for patients.

Because of the depth of expertise brought by the staff, the Brain Tumor Center is able to fulfill its wide-ranging mission to offer diagnosis and treatment, while conducting basic and clinical research and sponsoring academic training through a fellowship program, directed by Tracy Batchelor, MD.


At the Brain Tumor Center, scientists are conducting cutting-edge research that has already yielded promising treatments. A team of 30 researchers works side by side with physicians to understand why tumors form and to find ways to turn laboratory results into new treatments. 

Under the direction of E. Antonio Chiocca, MD, PhD, investigators are successfully using gene therapy in the laboratory to suppress tumors. New genes are placed in tumor cells, thereby suppressing tumor growth. In another type of therapy, genes are used either to kill tumor cells or to make them more susceptible to chemotherapy. These promising methods will soon be available as therapies for brain tumor patients.

Another approach, under the direction of David N. Louis, MD, focuses on genetic abnormalities in brain tumors. Dr. Louis and his team are studying abnormal genes in tumors to understand why tumors form and to predict a patient's responsiveness to treatment. Dr. Louis has made great strides in clarifying the genetic pathways for different types of tumors. These pathways could have far-reaching implications for how these tumors are treated.

Clinical research

Patients of the Brain Tumor Center have access to the most current therapies, often before they are made available to the general public. Massachusetts General Hospital is a founding member of a national program, New Approaches to Brain Tumor Therapy (NABTT), sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and run by Johns Hopkins University. As a participant, the MGH has access to newly developed drugs that are not yet being marketed nationwide. In addition, the MGH works with pharmaceutical companies to make other new therapies available to patients. With additional philanthropic support, the center could offer these promising treatments to even more patients.

How you can help

The Berkowitz and Knott Fund has raised a substantial amount of money toward brain tumor research. But experts have only started to tap the possibilities for treating this often-deadly disease. They hope one day to eradicate the tumors that cause so much suffering to patients and their families.

Your support is greatly needed to help ensure that many others like Lisa and David have the chance to lead healthy and productive lives. By making a gift to the Brain Tumor Center, you enable scientists to pursue better treatments, physicians to offer more sophisticated care and patients to have greater hope of living longer, healthier lives.

If you would like to support the Brain Tumor Center by giving to the Berkowitz and Knott Fund, please mail your donation to:

Massachusetts General Hospital
Development Office
100 Charles River Plaza, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114-2792.

Or contact the Development Office at:

(617) 726-2200

Disclaimer About Medical Information: The information and reference materials contained herein is intended solely for the information of the reader. It should not be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient's own physician. All visitors to this and associated sites from the Neurosurgical Service at MGH agree to read and abide by the the complete terms of legal agreement found at the Neurosurgery "disclaimer & legal agreement." See also: the MGH Disclaimer, the MGH Privacy Policy, and the MGH Interactive Program Disclaimer - Copyright 2000.
BTC @ MGHMGH  Neurosurgical Service Home
Research@Neurosurgery Visitors must read the disclaimer - legal agreement.
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2005 MGH Neurosurgical Service
MGH NeuroCare Info Systems
(internal access only)
System Info Contact: WebServant or the PageServant or e-mail Webmaster
Last modified: February 7, 2005

Referrals to MGH BTC or MGH Neurosurgery