Center For Innovation In Neuroscience and Technology
Inoperable Brain Tumors


Monteris AutoLITT® System MRI-guided laser probe. Image courtesy of Monteris Medical Inc.
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Washington University neurosurgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital were among the first in the nation to use an MRI-guided high-intensity laser probe in the treatment of inoperable brain tumors. Use of the technology is being led by Eric Leuthardt, MD, director of the Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology.

The probe is used to “cook” cancer cells deep within the brain while leaving surrounding brain tissue undamaged. Neurosurgeons drill a small burr hole about the diameter of a pencil through the patient’s skull and use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide the probe through the brain into the tumor. Once inside the tumor, the laser discharges highly focused thermal energy to coagulate and kill cancer cells. The MRI-directed positioning of the laser occurs in real time so the discharge of energy to the tumor leaves the healthy surrounding brain tissue undamaged.

Brain tumors treated with the laser probe include gliomas, anaplastic astrocytomas and glioblastomas, and cancers that have spread to the brain from other regions of the body. Neurosurgeons may also use the system to treat radiation-resistant tumors. Typically, tumors are in hard-to-reach regions of the brain such as the basal ganglia, thalamus and insula, although patients with cancer in other areas may be considered if they are too sick for open surgery.

The high-intensity laser probe is FDA-approved for neurosurgical use.