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YOUR HEALTH: Laser treatments for brain tumors

NORMAN, Oklahoma – Senator John McCain has joined more than 160,000 Americans who are facing a diagnosis of brain cancer.

Researchers say one treatment used for an entirely different illness could help those with brain tumors.

It's called Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy or LITT.   It's helping make lives better for patients who have recurring brain tumors.

Barry Harjo had a large tumor removed from his brain.

Dr. Michael Sughrue from the University of Oklahoma Medical Center's Brain Tumor Center opted to leave in 30% so Barry could still communicate.  As the tumor began to grow again, Barry was given three weeks to live.

He had to decide what to do next.

"I was so worried about all that time was my wife and my babies all of the time," he said.

"We can go for broke and take out the whole tumor," explained Dr. Sughrue.

"We decided to be aggressive," said Barry's wife, Robin.

Barry was doing great. Then a small spot appeared.   But technology was on his side with a new procedure called LITT.

"You make an incision about that big and you drop a laser down to the target, a very thin laser fiber through the brain," explained Dr. Sughrue.

"The MRI does a very fast repeated MRI over and over again, and the computer constructs a heat map."

The surgeon can see where the heat is being dispensed and how the tumor is being burned.

The patient can go home the next day.

"It was really quick," said Barry.  "I was surprised. I was happy I got so much better."

"It was amazing," added Robin.

"We radically changed the whole ball game so chemotherapy is more likely to work on less cancer," said Dr. Sughrue.

Doctors say LITT can also be used to help patients who don't respond to another form of surgery, called stereotactic radiosurgery, or patients who have tissue death caused by radiation.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Brain laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT), has been FDA cleared and covered and paid for by Medicare. This technology applies a focused laser energy that a surgeon uses to ablate tumors and lesions from the inside of the brain. This is an improvement as the therapy can remove these tumors and lesions that were once deemed inoperable. The complication rates using the laser therapy results in a much lower rate than current treatments of brain tumors. The overall survival of brain LITT is better than current treatments. After studying different cases with the use of this technology, the brain LITT should be considered a viable treatment for high grade gliomas in the brain.   (Source: https://resource-allocation.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12962-016-0055-2 )

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.