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Dr. David Sandberg, MD

Pediatric Neurosurgeon

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Physician Biography

Pediatric Neurosurgeon

Director, Pediatric Neurosurgery
Mischer Neuroscience Institute
Professor, The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery
Professor, Department of Pediatric Surgery
McGovern Medical School at UTHealth

David I. Sandberg, M.D., FACS, FAAP, is fellowship trained in pediatric neurosurgery with a special clinical and research interest in pediatric brain tumors. Dr. Sandberg specializes in minimally invasive endoscopic approaches to brain tumors, hydrocephalus and arachnoid cysts, as well as surgical management of arteriovenous malformations of the brain, congenital spinal anomalies, spasticity and craniofacial anomalies. He has developed novel treatment approaches for certain types of brain tumors in children.

A graduate of Harvard University, Dr. Sandberg received his medical degree at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He completed neurosurgery training at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University/New York Presbyterian Hospital. During residency, he was awarded the Resident Traveling Fellowship in Pediatric Neurosurgery by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons, which he completed at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. He then completed pediatric neurosurgery fellowship training at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Before joining McGovern Medical School, Dr. Sandberg served as associate professor of clinical neurological surgery and pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

In addition to his appointment at McGovern Medical School, Dr. Sandberg is a clinical associate professor in the department of Neurosurgery and division of Pediatrics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and serves as co-director of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital. The recipient of numerous research grants, Dr. Sandberg is currently investigating direct administration of chemotherapy into the fourth ventricle for treatment of malignant posterior fossa tumors of childhood.

Major Clinical Interests

His major clinical interests include pediatric brain tumors, minimally invasive endoscopic approaches to brain tumors and hydrocephalus, congenital spinal anomalies, vascular malformations, spasticity, and craniofacial disorders in children.

Research Interests and Medical Missions

Dr. Sandberg's major research interests focus on novel means of delivering therapeutic agents into the brain for the treatment of childhood brain tumors.  He has developed translational research models in piglets and primates and is currently initiating a Phase I clinical trial based upon these research efforts. He has been principal investigator of studies funded by the Woman's Cancer Association of the University of Miami, Miami Children's Hospital Foundation and the Emily Dorfman Foundation, and has served on medical missions to Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Uganda and Haiti.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for International Education in Neurological Surgery (FIENS).

Pediatric Brain Tumor Trials

Infusion of 5-AZA Pilot Study

The Children’s Neuroscience Center has a new brain tumor trial that is open to qualified participants. The research study is being conducted by David Sandberg, M.D., Professor and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

The study is called “Infusion of 5-Azacytidine (5-AZA) into the Fourth Ventricle or Resection Cavity in Children with Recurrent Posterior Fossa Ependymoma: A Pilot Study.” It is open to patients who are age 1 to 21 years old with recurrent ependymoma that originated in the posterior fossa of the brain.

The study employs a novel means of treating ependymoma brain tumors that originate from the fourth ventricle: infusion of a chemotherapy agent directly into the fourth ventricle rather than systemic intravenous delivery. The agent being infused, 5-AZA, has never been infused into the brain in humans but has been shown to effectively kill ependymoma cells in the laboratory. There will be no simultaneous systemic chemotherapy.

This study is listed at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT # 02940483, under “Brain Tumor Recurrent.” If you would like additional information about this study, please contact Marcia Kerr, RN by email at marcia.l.kerr@uth.tmc.edu or call (713) 500-7363.

Combination Intraventricular Chemotherapy Pilot Study

The Children’s Neuroscience Center has a new brain tumor trial that is open to qualified participants. The research study is being conducted by David Sandberg, M.D., Professor and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. The study is called “Combination Intraventricular Chemotherapy Pilot Study: Methotrexate and Etoposide Infusions into the Fourth Ventricle or Resection Cavity in Children with Recurrent Posterior Fossa Brain Tumors.” It is open to patients who are age 1 to 21 years old with recurrent medulloblastoma (PNET), recurrent ependymoma, and recurrent atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors involving the brain and/or spine.

The study employs a novel means of treating malignant tumors that originate from the fourth ventricle: infusion of two chemotherapy agents directly into the fourth ventricle rather than systemic intravenous delivery. There will be no simultaneous systemic chemotherapy. This study is listed at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT # 02905110, under “Brain Tumor Recurrent.” If you would like additional information about this study, please contact Marcia Kerr, R.N. at marcia.l.kerr@uth.tmc.edu or by calling (713) 500-7363.

Phase I Dose-Escalation Trial

A phase I dose-escalation trial is now open to qualified participants at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. The trial is the only study in the world investigating the direct administration of methotrexate into the fourth ventricle of the brain for the treatment of children with recurrent malignant fourth ventricular brain tumors.

The clinical trial is led by David Sandberg, M.D., FAANS, FACS, FAAP, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center, and the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. Dr. Sandberg has pioneered the use of direct infusions into the fourth ventricle of the brain to treat children with recurrent malignant brain tumors in this location. A pilot clinical trial completed in August 2015 demonstrated that some patients with recurrent medulloblastoma experience a beneficial anti-tumor effect both within the fourth ventricle and at distant sites.

Delivering chemotherapeutic agents directly to the site of disease is particularly advantageous for children because it enables high drug concentrations at the site of disease origin while minimizing the side effects of chemotherapy by decreasing systemic drug exposure. To learn more about the trial, contact Marcia Kerr at (713) 500-7363 or via email at marcia.l.kerr@uth.tmc.edu.

Other Trials:

Professional Recognition & Awards

  • 1992 - Samuel H. Abramson Research Fellowship
  • 1992 - John Harvard Scholarship
  • 1993 - Phi Beta Kappa
  • 1994 - National Institutes of Health, Summer Research Fellowship
  • 1999 - AANS/CNS Resident Traveling Fellowship in Pediatric Neurosurgery
  • 2001 - Kenneth Shulman Award from AANS/CNS for best paper presented at Pediatric Neurological Surgery Section meeting
  • 2002 - Cornell Medical Center Alumni Council Distinguished Housestaff Award
  • 2010 - Miami Children's Hospital Research Institute: Award for Excellence in Research

Editor and Ad Hoc Reviewer

Dr. Sandberg is editor of the ISPN Guide to Pediatric Neurosurgery, Tumor Section, and is an ad hoc reviewer for a number of neurosurgery and neuroscience journals. He has co-authored textbook chapters and numerous manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals including Neurosurgery, Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Journal of Neuro-Oncology, Journal of Child Neurology and Pediatric Neurosurgery.

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