News 9 MD: Battling brain cancer with lasers

News 9 MD Battling brain cancer with lasers

ST. LOUIS, MO (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain cancer and also the most deadly. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can buy patients precious time, but in most cases, it's no cure. Now, researchers have found a high-tech laser surgery that may have an added benefit for patients.

Thirty-nine-year old Campbell Laird loves every minute of family game night with wife Martha and their three kids. Just three years ago, Laird was running out of chances.

"I trembled a lot," Laird says.

Laird's tremors were caused by an aggressive form of brain cancer. Doctors recommended a high-tech laser surgery.

Eric Leuthardt, MD, a neurosurgeon at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis describes the procedure, "It's a small incision, probably about the length of my fingernail, in the scalp. A small hole in the skull about the size of a pencil and then this laser probe gets placed into the center of the tumor."

The heat zaps cancer cells. But Dr. Leuthardt has also found an unusual benefit to the laser surgery. Researchers say the lasers break down the brain's natural barrier designed to keep toxins out.

"By breaking down the blood brain barrier, we now have a window to give new type of therapies that would otherwise not get there," Dr. Leuthardt says.

Researchers say the laser keeps the barrier open for four to six weeks after the surgery, allowing time for chemo drugs to work. For Laird, the treatment has restored his movement. Three years ago, he could barely hold a pencil, now he's sketching cartoons for his kids.

Laird says, "I think this laser ablation thing is a really good option for people."

"He's got no evidence at this time of a recurrence," details Dr. Leuthardt.

Researchers studied 14 patients with glioblastoma. The FDA approved the laser surgery in 2009, but researchers say this is the first time the laser has been shown to allow the drugs to penetrate the brain. Studies are ongoing to see if this will make a difference in patients' survival.

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