The goal of every brain tumor surgery is to remove as much cancerous tissue as safely as possible.
Neurosurgeons are always challenged, trying to distinguish between cancerous tissue and healthy tissue.
Now, a new visual tool called Gleolan lets neurosurgeons focus in on brain tumors called “gliomas”, including the margins, or edges. Gleolan is a dye that makes malignant tissue more visible. Patients drink a solution a few hours before surgery. The compound turns the harmful tumor cells bright pink or magenta, increasing their visibility under a special blue light.
The neurosurgical team at Culicchia Neurological Clinic was the first in Louisiana to use Gleolan. Dr. Frank Culicchia administered the Gleolan to Renee Ware just before surgery at West Jefferson Medical Center to remove a 5 cm Glioblastoma.
“Gleolan’s fluorescent agent caused the tumor to turn a bright pink, making it easier to see the tumor, especially its edges,” Dr. Culicchia recalls. “It tasted like lemonade,” the 39-year-old personal trainer from Gray, Louisiana recalls. She was in near-perfect shape and her cancer diagnosis was a shock.
It all began in July 2020, when she sensed that something wasn’t right.
“I noticed that I was slurring my words, especially words that had an -S,” she recalls. Then, one day, the left side of her face started drooping. The very next day, after exercising on a spin bike, her left side went numb, and she started twitching uncontrollably. She was experiencing a focal motor seizure, a symptom of brain cancer.
Renee was ultimately referred to Neurosurgeon Frank Culicchia at West Jefferson Medical Center, who confirmed that Renee had a glioblastoma about the size of a golf ball. Two days later she underwent surgery.
“Because of the Gleolan visualization, we were able to remove 100 percent of the visible tumor, with only microscopic roots remaining” Dr. Culicchia said. “I am not sure we would have been able to excise that much without the help of Gleolan.”
Renee underwent a six-week course of radiation and chemotherapy. One month after her last session, her MRI was clear, showing no signs of the tumor. That was in October, 2020.
Almost three years later, MRI’s are still clear, though she is scanned every three months.“Glioblastomas can be very aggressive so we are watching Renee closely,” Dr. Culicchia said. “But thanks to technologies like Gleolan, patients are living longer and enjoying a better quality of life.”
“I am thankful to be alive,” Renee says. “Cancer really changes your entire perspective on life. It makes you realize how important friends and family are. We get caught up in everyday life but it has taught me to never take anything for granted.”
Renee is a fighter and has made dietary and lifestyle changes to regain strength on her left side. She back to working out on her own and recently ran a 5K. She offers this advice for patient facing cancer or a serious medical condition: “Have a support system. You are going to need that emotional support during your treatment.”
About Culicchia Neurological
Culicchia Neurological is one of the largest neuro practices in the region with offices at West Jefferson Medical Center’s Physician Office building in Marrero and in Uptown New Orleans. CNC Hearing and Balance Center, an affiliate of Culicchia Neurological, includes a medical staff trained to provide the latest in neurotology and audiology. Appointments can be made by calling: 504-340-6976.