Chemotherapy for Brain Tumors

Find a Chemotherapy Specialist Near You

Houston Methodist’s neuro-oncologists provide precise, targeted brain tumor treatment using the latest innovations in chemotherapy.

Houston Methodist neurologists are proven experts in the treatment of malignant brain tumors. Our patients benefit from access to the most effective chemotherapy options, including novel therapies through our robust clinical trials. 


Specialized neuro-oncologists at the Kenneth R. Peak Center for Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment and Research at Houston Methodist Hospital use the most advanced techniques available to administer chemotherapy. Precision methods such as the injection of medication directly into the arteries that feed a tumor — or directly into the tumor itself — reduce systemic toxicity and improve patients’ quality of life during treatment.


Our physicians consider the complexity of your condition against all types of chemotherapeutic treatments when creating a treatment plan for you.

Advanced Treatments for Complex Brain Tumors

Houston Methodist is developing several new therapies, currently in various stages of research.


  • Drug pump inhibitors – This uses nanosyringes to pump poison inside tumor cells and makes chemotherapy much more effective at a much lower dose.
  • Intra-arterial superselective chemotherapy: A first in Texas, this novel treatment is effective for brain tumors resistant to other therapies or that have been deemed inoperable, such as a malignant brainstem glioma. We improved this therapy by first delivering a drug to open the blood brain barrier, then applying chemotherapy directly to the blood vessels supplying the tumor.
  • Mitochondrial smart bombs – Developed at Houston Methodist, this is the first known example of selective mitochondrial chemotherapy. These “smart bombs” target cancerous mitochondria, suppressing tumor growth. This therapy has been highly effective against glioblastoma (malignant brain tumors) in experimental studies, and it is in the process of further development. 
  • Nanosyringes – These ultra-tiny syringes inject chemotherapy medication into individual cancer cells while sparing normal cells. In experimental studies, nanosyringes are highly effective in treating many types of cancer, including glioblastoma and breast cancer. The therapy is in development, in collaboration with Rice University.

Types of Chemotherapy for Brain Tumors

Conventional Chemotherapy

Conventional chemotherapeutic agents attack the cell division process. The goal of conventional chemotherapy is to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often considered to be a primary treatment, or one introduced before or after another treatment option. Chemotherapy can reduce the size or spread of tumors, relieving associated symptoms of advanced cancer.


Chemotherapy is given in a variety of methods, including by:

  • Direct placement via a spinal tap or injection in the brain fluid through a device placed under the scalp
  • Infusion into a vein
  • By mouth as a pill or liquid

Some chemotherapy medications are available topically as a cream.

Targeted Chemotherapeutic Agents

Normal cells go through a transformation process to become cancer cells. Then they grow into tumors or spread throughout the body. Targeted therapy disrupts this transformation process. 


These drugs seek out certain parts of the cell and then disrupt the signals needed for the cancer to develop and keep growing. Chemotherapy medications can be grouped by how they work or by which part of the cell or process they target. 


Types of targeted chemotherapy drugs include:

  • Apoptosis-inducing drugs – These medications kick off   the normal process that causes cells to die.
  • Angiogenesis inhibitors – By blocking the tumor’s blood supply, these drugs prevent the tumor   from creating the blood supply it needs to grow or spread.
  • Antibody drugs – These man-made versions of immune system proteins (antibodies) are designed to seek certain targets on cancer cells, much like the body would seek germs or other harmful invaders.
  • Enzyme inhibitors – These drugs block enzymes that the tumor needs to grow. Blocking them may prolong your life and/or help other drugs to work better.
  • Small-molecule drugs – These drugs can attach to very specific areas of cancer cells.  Since they do not attach to normal cells, there are fewer side effects. 

Learn More About Chemotherapy

Patient education and community resources for pituitary tumor treatment and recovery.
Learn more about chemotherapy >

Patient Success

Stratton Muhmel Patient Story

Learn about active clinical trials for brain tumors.
Find a brain tumor clinical trial >

Innovative Developments in Novel Therapy Treatments

We have additional novel treatments currently in development, including ways to put special caps on parts of DNA to modify signals, enzymes that modify the way in which DNA releases and expresses its genes, and other chemicals that inhibit cancer cell defenses.

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