Northwell neurosurgeons remove ‘glowing’ brain tumor using breakthrough technology in Long Island first

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Dr. Michael Schulder performed the first case on Long Island using new Gleolan imaging dye which illuminates brain cancer cells. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

In a medical first on Long Island, neurosurgeons at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) have removed a glioblastoma brain tumor using a new imaging tool that transforms the way diseased cells are targeted.

Gleolan is an optical imaging agent – or dye – that illuminates a tumor as bright pink hue against a blue background of healthy brain cells. “Glowing” cancer cells makes it easier for neurosurgeons to remove as much of the tumor as possible without affecting the normal brain tissue.

The procedure to remove the glioblastoma in Robert Mosley, 83, of Queens Village was performed by Dr. Michael Schulder, director, Northwell Health’s Brain Tumor Center and vice chair of neurosurgery at NSUH and Long Island Jewish Medical Center. 

“One of the challenges in brain tumor removal is knowing where the cancer cells end, and the healthy tissue begins,” said Schulder. “Gleolan is another imaging tool we can now use in the fight against brain tumors. The illuminated colors provide a more precise map of the tumor itself, so we can remove as much of the cancerous cells as possible, while preserving healthy brain tissue. For patients with gliomas in particular, Gleolan offers real time, high resolution delineation of malignant tissue during the surgery.”

A few hours before Mosley’s Feb. 19 surgery, he drank a half cup of Gleolan. The compound turns harmful tumor cells bright pink or magenta, increasing their visibility under a special blue light, so that the neurosurgeon can perform a more thorough tumor removal. As part of the post-surgery recovery, patients using Gleolan must remain in a relatively dark environment for up to three days.

In an initial randomized, controlled clinical trial performed in the United States, some patients were given Gleolan before glioma surgery. They had twice the rate of survival without progression after six months compared to those patients who didn’t receive the dye.

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