Physician spotlight: Christopher McPherson, MD

Dr. Christopher McPherson, a neurosurgeon with the Mayfield Clinic and Associate Professor and Director of the Division of Surgical Neuro-Oncology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is at the forefront of efforts to develop new therapies for brain tumors. His subspecialty is neuro-oncology – cancer of the brain – and within that subspecialty he has made a special commitment to the battle against glioblastoma multiforme, a common and highly aggressive brain tumor.

Glioblastoma presents special problems because of its aggressive nature. It grows rapidly and the tumor’s cells invade the brain, and individual cells tend to escape removal. As a result, the tumor often grows back near the site of the initial mass. Dr. McPherson focuses his research on this brain tumor and its treatment. Dr. McPherson, who is also one of the founding members of the UC Brain Tumor Center, is currently involved in more than 10 clinical trials that could lead to better treatments for glioblastoma and other related brain cancers.

Dr. McPherson was Cincinnati’s principal investigator in The Cancer Genome Atlas, a national study that mapped out the glioblastoma and glioma tumors’ entire genomes in order to identify abnormalities at the molecular level that could be targets for therapies of the future. He is also Cincinnati's principal investigator in the Ohio Brain Tumor Research Study, which is looking at risk factors for brain tumors, and principal investigator for the University of Cincinnati Brain Tumor Tissue Bank.

“Although a few things are known to cause brain tumors – radiation, for example, and rare genetic syndromes – we haven’t been able to pinpoint other risk factors,” Dr. McPherson says. “When I see patients, usually the first thing they ask is, “How did I get this? Knowing the answer may help guide us to a cure.”

Even when treating patients who have difficult, aggressive tumors, Dr. McPherson never gives up hope. With a bedside manner that is kind and sincere, he provides healing, even if he can't always provide a cure. Rick King, one of his patients who did not survive his glioblastoma, commented during his treatment: “I looked at Dr. McPherson and he was so sincere, so soothing. I could see it in his eyes that he was hoping for the best. It gave me some extra strength.” Mr. King thanked Dr. McPherson for giving him “an extra 12 months to get things organized and ready to cherish what time I had left on this earth.”

It is patients like Mr. King who motivate Dr. McPherson. “We are extremely interested in developing sophisticated drugs that target specific differences within cancer cells," he says. "As of now, we don’t have a lot of good treatments for patients with these particular tumors.”

A national leader in his field, Dr. McPherson has been a member of the Executive Committee of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons / Congress of Neurological Surgeons (AANS/CNS) Section on Tumors since 2009. He is currently editor for the Tumor Section website and also a member of an AANS committee that is developing a review book for neurosurgeons who are preparing for their 10-year re-certification board exam. In the latter role Dr. McPherson is authoring a chapter on malignant glioma. Dr. McPherson has published 26 journal articles and serves as a frequent reviewer for publications regarding brain tumors in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology.

Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Dr. McPherson has wanted to be a doctor for as long as he can remember. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Kansas, then remained at Kansas for medical school, where he fell in love with neurosurgery while learning about the anatomy of the brain. “Once I saw a brain surgery in the operating room, I was hooked!” Dr. McPherson says.

He then traveled east to Cincinnati, where he spent six years as a neurosurgical resident. He also met his future wife, a lovely “West Side girl,” on a blind date arranged by a patient of one of his professors. This not-so-insignificant fact ensured that Dr. McPherson would ultimately make his permanent home in Cincinnati. Following graduation, he did advanced fellowship training in neuro-oncologic neurosurgery at the famed MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, then returned to Cincinnati as a Mayfield neurosurgeon in 2005.

During the last several years Dr. McPherson has become increasingly involved in the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky community. He served as Program Director of the Midwest Regional Brain Tumor Conference, a collaboration with the National Brain Tumor Foundation, from 2008 through 2012, and continues to be actively involved in the conference. He is also an avid participant in the annual Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure, a fundraiser that in three years has raised more than $850,000 to support brain tumor research and education in the Cincinnati area.

Dr. McPherson is a member of Friends of Krohn Conservatory, a supporter of Cincinnati Opera, and a supporter of the Greater Cincinnati United Way at the Roebling Level. He was elected to the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Forty-under-40 class of 2010 and was named one of the Business Courier’s Health Care Heroes finalists in the innovator category for 2013.

VIDEO: Dr. Chris McPherson explains how image-guided surgery (IGS) technology is used in the operating room.

Dr. McPherson
Dr. McPherson at a recent patient education event
  View Dr.McPherson's Bio >


Related links:

YouTube video: Dr. Christopher McPherson explains image guided surgery for Brain Tumors.

Dr. & Mrs. McPherson
Dr. McPherson and his wife at the
'Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure' event.


Recent publications:
Air EL, Warnick RE, McPherson CM.Management strategies after nondiagnostic results with frameless stereotactic needle biopsy: Retrospective review of 28 patients.Surg Neurol Int. 2012;3(Suppl 4):S315-9.

McPherson CM, Gerena-Lewis M, Breneman JC, Warnick RE. Results of phase I study of a multi-modality treatment for newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme using local implantation of concurrent BCNU wafers and permanent I-125 seeds followed by fractionated radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy.J Neurooncol. 2012 Jul;108(3):521-5.