Difficult-to-remove brain tumors present search for solutions

August 28, 2014 | by

Brain tumor removal would seem to be the obvious course of action in the wake of a brain tumor diagnosis, but that's not always the case. Some tumors are too difficult for many surgeons to reach or too close to areas that control vital functions. Removing them just proves too risky.

Mike Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Mike Chen, assistant professor in Division of Neurosurgery, is exploring the potential of the NeuroBlate device. He believes it could be a tool of the future for City of Hope.

A new device being considered at City of Hope, however, could ultimately allow neurosurgeons to not only reach these tumors safely, but to remove them in a carefully controlled way. This device, called the NeuroBlate, is an MRI-guided laser that destroys tumors through ablation, avoiding both traditional surgery and a craniotomy; that is, the removal of part of the skull.

“Ablation, or directing energy to kill tumor tissue is not a new thing,” said Mike Chen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Division of Neurosurgery at City of Hope. “The difference with NeuroBlate, or the newest generation of ablations systems, is that they are designed to be inserted stereotactically." Stereotactic surgery uses very small incisions and extremely precise, three-dimensional positioning.

"You can marry it with modern imaging capability, so you can actually see in the MRI the thermal blue occurring, so you know precisely what you’re blading," Chen said. "It’s not just me sticking it in and guessing what I’m 'frying' so to speak. I can see the actual cancer tissue I’m killing, and I have MRI to visualize exactly what I’m blading.”

The minimally invasive device is designed to allow neurosurgeons to remove lesions that would traditionally be inoperable. Further, the NeuroBlate – developed by Monteris Medical – creates less trauma to the brain than traditional surgery, which requires removal of part of the skull.

Surgeons may also be able to use the device with other types of treatments. “Our plan is to investigate tumors that are highly resistant to radiation and potentially not operable,” said Chen. “What will happen if we combined radiation, focused radiation and the NeuroBlate? This tool provides another therapeutic option where these patients previously had no other treatment left to try.”

The technology could even be used on other parts of the body.

“We’re still exploring the boundaries, since this technology is relatively new,” Chen said. "It would be foolish of us to ignore the possibilities of this technology. It’s going to be a tool of the future for us. We want to be involved in determining what the boundaries are for it."

He added: "It’s a beautiful thing and I’m very excited about it.”

**

Learn more about getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting us online or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.