Brain Tumors Glow ‘Like Lava’ With New Surgical Probe

Neurosurgeons can now follow a glowing road map that points the way to cancerous brain tissue, leading thereby to a more effective surgical excision.

Researchers at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., have developed a probe that uses protoporphyrin IX fluorescence, oxygen saturation, hemoglobin concentration, and cell morphology to differentiate cancerous tissue from normal.

The probe identified 94% of glioma tissue in a small pilot study (J. Biomed. Opt. 2012 May 4 [doi:10.1117/1.JBO.17.5.056008]).


Photo courtesy Keith Paulsen, PhD, and Norris Cotton Cancer Center.
Researchers at Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College have developed a probe that gives a glowing view of low-grade tumors.

Research in Germany 15 years ago suggested that such a tool would identify only highly metabolic primary tumors. But augmenting the fluorescence technique with a computer algorithm that added the other cellular features gave surgeons a “jaw-dropping” view of low-grade tumors.

“The tumor glowed like lava,” said Keith Paulsen, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering at the school of engineering and a member of the cancer imaging and radiobiology research program at Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

The team will next evaluate their technique on lung cancers, with investigations of other tumor types to follow.

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