Tumor Paint for Hunter's Brain

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There's promising new research that could help surgeons in the future more safely remove brain tumors. (KFSN)

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.

"Christmas day he vomited first thing in the morning," said Laura Coffman. "I kept taking his temperature all day."

Coffman knew something was wrong with her son Hunter, but had no idea he had a brain tumor.

"They found the mass and about ten minutes later we were walking up to put him into surgery," Coffman told Ivanhoe.

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.

Coffman detailed, "A couple weeks later, he was up and walking and was back to his normal self. It was absolutely amazing."

Jim Olson, M.D., Ph.D., a brain tumor physician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, 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," explained Dr. Olson.

Tumor paint has been used in 75 patients across four Phase I clinical trials. This first part of the study is focused on safety, and it looks promising.

Amy Lee, M.D., a pediatric neurosurgeon at Seattle Children Hospital, told Ivanhoe, "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."

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. They are also starting to look at how it might help in other tumors, like breast cancer.

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