Lighting the Way

Fluorescent imaging is lighting the way in brain tumor care – particularly in treating gliomas. And, the Gerald J. Glasser Brain Tumor Center is one of the first providers in New Jersey to harness its power.

Gliomas are one of the most common types of brain tumors – and one of the most difficult to treat. Surgery to remove these tumors, usually the first treatment step, is complicated because gliomas don’t have clear biological boundaries. They’re surrounded by what’s similar to a fog with unstructured boundaries.

“Glioma surgery entails sculpting out a tumor with borders that truly cannot be seen due to the infiltrative nature of the tumor and its surrounding fog of tumor cells,” explains Yaron A. Moshel, MD, PhD, Co-Director of the Gerald J. Glasser Brain Tumor Center and a neurosurgeon with Altair Health. “When these dense tumors invade the body’s most complicated organ, the brain, and become intertwined with the functional areas that control language, memory, motor and sensory skills – as they often do – the risks and challenges of removing them intensify.”

Fluorescent imaging, one of the newest advancements in brain tumor care, is shedding new light on this.
Prior to surgery, a patient ingests 5-ALA, a liquid solution nicknamed the “Pink Drink” because of the pink fluorescent glow it casts on cancerous cells. Using a special microscope equipped with a highly specific blue light filter, surgeons can clearly view the tumor and hard-to-see edges in real time. The pink glow distinguishes the invading edges of the tumor from healthy tissue, which often look alike. This visibility enables surgeons to accurately remove more of the malignancy without damaging healthy tissue and impacting vital functions such as speech and movement. Less trauma to the patient results in better functional outcomes and enhanced quality of life. The ability to remove the entire tumor leads to longer survival rates and delays the need for more aggressive second-line chemotherapy treatments.

“Data shows in more than 70% of cases, the entire tumor was successfully removed as compared to 30% when fluorescent imaging was not used. We believe this fluorescent tracer will become the standard of care because of the immense advantage it provides in distinguishing malignant cells from healthy tissue,” Dr. Moshel adds.