One of the problems that surgeons who currently operate on brain tumour patients have is the limited information available when making decisions about the different tissues in which the tumour appears. This is a limitation that also has implications in the possible side effects of the operation in the surrounding areas. What is relevant in these cases is that the damage to these brain tissues can lead to problems in the patient’s movements or their ability to speak.
Fortunately, it seems that in the not too distant future these decisions may be made simpler for surgeons. According to recent research published in the publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the mass spectrometer could provide more information than is currently available in such highly complex operations.
In the words of Sandro Santagata of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston: “Thanks to this new approach, we are much closer to obtaining a comprehensive view of this problem during the actual surgical operation.”
At present, a surgeon must wait at least 30 minutes to get the result of a biopsy or up to 60 minutes to carry out an MRI scan, which adds valuable time to the duration of the operation.
A different approach to reduce time and costs
In a clear attempt to shorten the operation time for brain tumours, Santagata’s team was assisted by Graham Cooks, analytical chemist at Purdue University in West Lafayette (Indiana, USA). The collective effort paid off, showing that in cases of brain tumours known as gliomas, significant amounts of a metabolite referred to as 2-hydroxyglutarate (2-HG) appear.
During this study, the team of Sandro Santagata analysed a total of 35 gliomas through a mass spectrometer. The objective now, as acknowledged by some scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is to begin incorporating these processes regularly for this type of brain tumours.
According to other specialists, this type of analysis and others such as the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) are frequently used post-operation by medical teams in order to see if the tumour has been thoroughly excised. The absence of 2-HG in the area surrounding the tumour site is considered as a sign that all of the cancerous cells have been fully removed.
We at Best Doctors definitely regard any innovation in the process of treatment of brain tumours as something we should welcome. The commitment of researchers and scientists and the multidisciplinary approach is, without a doubt, one of the ways to go forward in areas in which research and background work has produced results.
We would like to acknowledge the great work carried out by Santagata’s team with the collaboration of professionals of other areas like Graham Cooks, even though we are still awaiting further results confirming their studies.