CANCER THERAPY: It is brain surgery

French surgeons at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris report that they have successfully used ultra-laparoscopic surgery to treat brain tumors. In a pilot program launched in December 2006, the surgeons have treated eight volunteers with otherwise inoperable brain tumors resulting from the metastasis of cancers elsewhere in the patients’ bodies. All patients have survived well beyond their average life expectancy of three months, according to a report in the journal Neurosurgery.

The surgical team used technology supplied by Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Texan firm BioTex Inc. With the patient under local anesthetic, surgeons introduce a water-cooled fiber-optic laser through a 1/8-inch diameter hole in the skull. With the help of a magnetic resonance imaging scanner, they guide it toward the tumor. A computer workstation calculates the temperature of the area that the laser is burning every three seconds, to ensure that the area does not overheat and confirm that it is destroying tumor cells.

“The patients feel nothing during the operation and generally can leave the hospital 14 hours later,” said According to the hospital’s Alexandre Carpentier. To date, six of the eight patients have completed the full treatment, which involves three separate surgeries. – PG

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