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Groundbreaking Treatment at Lenox Hill Hospital uses Belly Fat to Fight Cancer

Lenox Hill Hospital/Northwell Health

MANHATTAN – Doctors at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side set to start fighting an aggressive form of recurring brain cancer with a first-of-its-kind in the world treatment using something many of already have plenty of— belly fat. 

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So far, the Northwell Health facility on East 77th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues has already recruited two patients to participate in the first human clinical trial to investigate whether fat from your belly can make chemotherapy more effective against recurrent glioblastoma— an aggressive form of brain cancer. 

Here’s how it works: those two patients underwent a six-hour surgery where first their brain tumor was removed— then the surgeon removed fat from the patient’s belly and transplanted it into the space in the patient’s skull where the tumor was removed. 

Untreated glioblastoma with "butterfly" configuration/The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
Untreated glioblastoma with ‘butterfly’ configuration/The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology

“With this unprecedented trial, we are hoping to overcome this long-standing obstacle in order to provide the best possible prognosis for patients suffering from glioblastoma,”said Dr. John Boockvar, director of the Brain Tumor Center at Lenox Hill Hospital

Researchers believe the belly fat treatment could make chemotherapy more effective on glioblastoma patients because the belly fat may allow cancer-fighting medications to reach the brain. Right now, most cancer medications are stopped by the blood-brain barrier, making treatment particularly difficult. 

“Finding effective methods of bypassing the [blood-brain barrier] in order to be able to deliver high doses of anti-cancer medication directly to the tumor site is one of our top priorities,” Dr. Boockvar said.

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The clinical trial’s first phase will include a total of ten brain cancer patients in all, many of which the Lenox Hill Hospital is still actively recruiting. As part of the trial, patients will be monitored by doctors for six months following the procedure. 

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