University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center becomes first in U.S. to use newly FDA-approved imaging agent that makes brain tumors glow hot pink

Friday, October 12, 2018

Color distinguishes tumor from healthy tissue to improve tumor removal

CLEVELAND –  The imaging agent 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (5-ALA), which helps neurosurgeons see the edges of a tumor more clearly to improve removal, was used in brain cancer surgery at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center today for the first time since the FDA approved it for use in the United States.  Although the drug has long been a standard of care in Germany and much of Europe, it was only approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. in 2017.

Andrew Sloan, MD, Director, Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center at UH Seidman and UH Cleveland Medical Center, who has been doing  clinical trials with the drug for almost a decade based on his own FDA-approved IND clinical trial, was the first neurosurgeon in the U.S. to use the drug on a patient with brain cancer since FDA approval.

Several published studies — including those from Dr. Sloan -- have shown that removing more tumor results in improved survival.  However, this often is difficult. 

“Glioblastoma are tumors which derive from the brain itself. They look like brain tissue, they feel like brain tissue, and at times, it’s hard to determine where tumor ends and inflamed brain tissue begins,” said Dr. Sloan.

To help identify the difference between the border of tumors and healthy tissue and improve tumor removal, Dr. Sloan used 5-ALA during surgery so that the tumor cells glowed hot pink when illuminated with a special blue light incorporated into his operating microscope.

This novel technique enabled him to see the edges of the tumors more clearly, allowing him to remove them more completely from the brain.

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