A UC San Francisco team is testing a technique whereby cancer patients are given an oral agent that makes a brain tumor light up like a Christmas tree.
According to San Francisco’s KGO, The organic dye, known as 5-ALA, migrates into tumor cells and begins to glow under fluorescent light. The UCSF procedure, performed on a glioma (a kind of malignant brain tumor) was the first in the United States, but a European study got positive results.
Dr. Mitchell Berger, Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at UCSF, leads the team. You have to be a doc to view the 5-ALA Glioma Study Group page, and if you can make sense out of this study, this study, this study or this one, you’re probably way ahead of me on this one, so I’ll just quote Dr. Berger, who told KGO:
This is a glowing tumor now. The dye is being excited and it’s turning the tumor orange…
This is like flying a plane with radar at night…
[a] lot of times the tumor is very clear, but the actual infiltrating margin looks just like normal brain. So it’s hard to find those cells. But now that they’re orange, we can go after them selectively.
I’m not sure what blows my mind more: that scientists can make brain tumors glow, or that they make them orange.