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Fluorescence Improves Brain Tumor Surgery Outcomes

Tracer lights the way for delicate procedure, extending survival

TUESDAY, April 19, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Using a fluorescent marker to aid in the surgical removal of malignant brain tumors improves patients' prognosis and survival, a new German study finds.

Gliomas -- a type of brain tumor -- are especially tough to completely remove surgically because they infiltrate healthy brain tissue, making it hard for surgeons to spot and safely remove the tumor as it spreads.

With the new technique, called maximal cytoreductive surgery, surgeons use traces of a fluorescent compound to define the borders where tumor and healthy brain tissue meet. The compound, called five-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA), collects in brain tumor tissue and can be made to fluoresce so that it shows up on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain.

Researchers examined whether the use of fluorescent 5-ALA might improve the surgical removal of malignant gliomas.

In findings presented April 18 at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons annual meeting, in New Orleans, the German team detected no signs of leftover malignancy in 65 percent of patients who had tumors removed using fluorescent 5-ALA, compared with 36 percent in patients who had standard surgery.

Patients in the 5-ALA group had a six-month, progression-free survival rate of 41 percent, compared with 21 percent for the control group, the researchers noted.

"The results demonstrate that fluorescence guidance using 5-ALA enhances [surgical removal] of malignant gliomas, and that enhanced resections are beneficial by translating into longer progression-free survival," researcher Dr. Walter Stummer said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about brain and spinal tumors.

SOURCE: American Association of Neurological Surgeons, news release, April 8, 2005
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