Soon, glow treatment for brain tumours to help surgeons operate easily

Making brain cancers glow may help surgeons operate the tumour easily. This is what the scientists are set to test in the UK.

Patients will be given a drug, 5-amino-levulinic acid (5-ALA), which causes a build-up of fluorescent chemicals in the tumour.

The theory is that the pink glow will clearly mark the edges of the tumour, making it easier to ensure all of it is removed.

More than 60 patients with glioblastoma will take part in the trial.

They have cancerous glial cells, which normally hold the brain’s nerves cells in place. On average patients survive 15 months after being diagnosed.

Dr Colin Watts, who is leading the trial at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC that surgeons “don’t want to take too much functional tissue away.”

The trial will then test whether applying drugs directly to the tumour improves survival rates.

After the tumour has been removed under UV light, a thin drug-soaked wafer will be placed in the space left behind. This should slowly release chemotherapy drugs over four to six weeks to kill any remaining cancerous cells.

This could overcome one of the challenges with chemotherapy for brain tumours.

“One of the problems with chemotherapy is we don’t actually know the extent a drug penetrates a tumour because of the blood brain barrier,” stated Dr Watts.

By applying the drug directly to the tumour it should be at a higher dose.

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