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Fluorescent Tracer 'Lights Up' Brain Tumor for Surgery
Date:2/19/2013

espond differently to the fluorescent drug than the body's other cells do? Their metabolism involves porphyrin, which has a tremendous ability to absorb light, Berger explained. Porphyrin is an organic compound, like the pigment in red blood cells. The pill used in the case report is derived from porphyrin.

The report focused on the case of a 56-year-old man who had undergone resection of a glioblastoma located in the right occipital lobe of his brain in 2005. Several years later, when symptoms reappeared, an MRI scan showed three distinct, new sites of tumor in the patient's right temporal lobe.

In surgery, when the surgeons viewed the fluorescent tumor cells, they could tell rather than being a new tumor, the cancer had spread from its original location on the right side of the brain through a pathway along the wall of the right ventricle. The researchers found that the use of 5-ALA during surgery enabled them to see the actual pathway of the tumor as it had spread.

The use of 5-ALA changed the patient's prognosis. "Multi-centric disease worsens the prognosis," Berger explained.

While the technique has been used in Europe for several years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of 5-ALA in the United States. Any surgeons using 5-ALA do so with limited permission from the FDA, Berger noted. The medication, 5-ALA, is manufactured by DUSA Pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Michael Schulder, vice chairman of the department of neurosurgery at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., explained that "while the FDA considers 5-ALA a drug, which would require a lengthy process for approval, neurosurgeons see it as a surgical aid, which would take far less time to get the OK."

While Schulder said he thinks 5-ALA probably will add about six months to the anticipated survival of patients with high-grade gliomas, he said that attempts to improve the ability to remove these tumors will only go so far. "In the en
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