New Brain Cancer Treatment Discovered

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center became the first in the nation to use newly FDA-approved GliaSite Radiation Therapy to treat brain cancer. In this technique, cancerous tissue is targeted with GliaSite, a liquid source of radiation delivered through a balloon catheter.

The balloon catheter was implanted while a tumor was being removed—a technique known as brachytherapy. Previous brachytherapy techniques had caused complications such as infection. The Medical Center was one of five National Cancer Institute-funded institutions conducting clinical trials of GliaSite.

GilaSite as a Brain Tumor Treatment

Stephen Tatter, MD, the neurosurgeon who performed the first GliaSite surgery, today continues to work with cutting-edge technologies in combating brain tumors. These are some of the most vexing tumors because of the delicate nature of the brain and the aggressiveness of the cancer. People diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, for example, typically survive less than 15 months.

Different therapies and techniques are used, frequently in combination, in the effort to bring brain tumor patients more quality time.

In recent years, Tatter has worked with a new device call AutoLITT (Automated Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy), that delivers a precise laser beam while a patient is in an MRI unit to kill otherwise inoperable tumors. The AutoLITT has a camera allowing the doctor to apply the laser beam in real time.

Tatter said a lot of the problem with treatment for brain tumors is figuring out ways to deliver treatment, and doing so without harm to the rest of the brain.

“When people ask ‘Can this be cured?’ I explain it and say it’s maybe a one in 2,000 chance, one in 5,000 chance,” Tatter said. “It’s so low I don’t think we should even talk about the possibility of curing it…”

That could change with the continuing development of products such as GliaSite and AutoLITT, he said.

“I think that somewhere between 10 and 20 years from now, that a five-year median survival is very reasonable. … I think that we should, during that time frame at least, be using the word cure and not feel guilty about it.’’