How Making Brain Tumors Glow Saves Lives

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"There is no question that without the dye, it is very challenging to remove these tumors; you have to use imagination and adjunct strategies like mapping the brain." said Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, a professor of neurosurgery and oncology at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution who was not involved in Stewart's treatment. "Using these dyes makes it a step easier for the patient to optimize outcomes for the patients.

"If these tumors fluoresce with a small amount of fluorescein, this can be of tremendous benefit for us to be able to remove these tumors from the patient."

In fact, this technology can even be applied in other diseases in the brain. Cohen-Gadol says that fluorescein can also help in identifying brain aneurysms -- a condition in which there is an abnormal, dangerous ballooning of blood vessels. He says that when looking for aneurysms, the healthy vessels glow yellow-green while the aneurysm remains uncolored, which makes for "an amazingly beautiful picture."

Cohen-Gadol says he has used the fluorescein technique in more than 30 brain cancer patients already. In Stewart's case, Cohen-Gadol managed to remove 99 percent of the tumor using the technology. Other doctors tell him it's the cleanest removal they've ever seen. A few months later, he used the technique again to remove two smaller tumors in Stewart's brain.

And after he was given less than a year to live, Stewart is now going on three years of survival. For this, he is extraordinarily grateful.

"Dr. Cohen-Gadol being able to see more tumor and go after it was a big advantage for me," says Stewart. "Whatever new technology is out there to improve the chance of survival, you want to get as much as you can."

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