There’s promising new research that could help surgeons in the future more safely remove brain tumors. Doctors at Seattle Children’s Hospital are currently studying the safety of using tumor paint to highlight significant areas of the brain.
Laura Coffman knew something was wrong with her son Hunter, but had no idea he had a brain tumor.
“Christmas day he vomited first thing in the morning. I kept taking his temp all day,” Coffman said. “They found the mass and about ten minutes later we were walking up to put him into surgery.”
The family agreed to allow Hunter to be part of a study at Seattle Children’s Hospital to light up his tumor during surgery using tumor paint.
“A couple weeks later, he was up and walking and was back to his normal self,” Coffman said. “It was absolutely amazing.”
Dr. Jim Olson was inspired by a patient and using a molecule in scorpions that binds to cancerous tumors he created a drug that makes the cancer stand out for surgeons.
“You don’t want to just take a big margin around the cancer like you do for other types of cancers because that could be a part of the brain that is for speech or thinking or remembering.”
Tumor paint has been used in 75 patients across four phase one clinical trials. This first part of the study is focused on safety and it looks promising.
“The fact that the tumor tissue fluoresces and that we can see the differentiation between normal tissue and abnormal tissue is really going to be a valuable tool for surgeons to use in the future,” said pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Amy Lee.
So far there have been no major side effects. Later this year, tumor paint will be used in 15 hospitals across the country for further study. Researchers hope to have it approved by the FDA in 2019 and they are also starting to look at how it might help in other tumors, like breast cancer.