Posted on Jun 11, 2020, 3 p.m.
A pioneering precision laser beam developed for impossible to treat brain tumours was used on the first 36 year old British patient, who was treated for his aggressive and deep seated tumours.
The laser beam gradually heats up to 70 degrees Celcius to kill the tumour cells and obliterate brain tumours that are said to be inoperable. The procedure involves inserting a fine narrow tube into the tumour before a laser is beamed down to it, then it gradually heats up to break down and kill all of the cancerous cells. During the procedure real time MRI images of the brain are sent to a computer screen which allows neurosurgeons to monitor where the laser is working.
Studies suggest that this pioneering laser procedure can almost double the survival time for 5 to 11 months in patients with an inoperable brain tumour, and it also provides an alternative to aggressive chemotherapy or radiotherapy which can further damage sensitive brain tissues.
Every year hundreds of brain tumour patients are denied surgery because of the damage that may be caused to surrounding healthy tissues. Now the Visualase laser may be an option for those patients as it is so precise that it can treat aggressive and hard to reach brain tumours with minimal damage. After this procedure patients are often able to go home the following day, compared to a possible 10 day hospital stay after conventional brain surgery.
Within the UK alone over 11,000 people are diagnosed with brain tumours every year, with only 14% of adults surviving for 5 years after diagnosis. Mr. Pablo Casasbuenas from Richmond, London who was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2014 became the first UK patient to undergo this treatment at The Harley Street Clinic in London after it was given European approval. However, the procedure may not be available for all NHS patients.
Pablo was given a general anesthetic for the 3 hour Visualase procedure, then a 3mm hole was drilled in his skull and then guided by MRI the laser was navigated to the tumour via a catheter measuring 1.65mm in diameter that was inserted into the tumour. The laser was fired into the tumour and gradually heated with light energy, increasing to destroy the cancerous cells, being monitored by MRI and once the entire area of the tumour was targeted the catheter and laser was withdrawn to close the entry hole with a single stitch.
Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, the consultant neurosurgeon at The Harley Street Clinic and King’s College Hospital in London said, “This laser-assisted brain surgery with robotics, through a keyhole, is delivered under real-time MRI control, which means that we can safely treat brain tumours in places previously not considered possible to treat.We are pleased with the results so far, since we want to see the MRI showing heat damage to the whole area of the tumour, indicating the whole mass has been treated. This was exactly the case for Pablo. We hope future MRI scans will show no increase in size in the tumour, because the Visualase has killed the tumour cells. The hope is to see the tumour not increasing in size, but the old tumour sitting there dead as a ghost.”
According to Mr. Casasbuenas, “I woke from surgery feeling pretty good, with just a tiny plaster on my head instead of bandages and stitches as before.The next day I went home with paracetamol, but didn’t really need it. After seven days I was back to running, and three weeks later I competed in a duathlon. I’m living my life again. I thought I had exhausted all treatment options, but to be given this chance makes me feel truly blessed.”
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