Brain tumors come out; brain ‘tiles’ go in
BY AMBER SMITH
Patients with some types of cancerous brain tumors require radiation treatment after they have the tumor removed, to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Now there’s the option to have the tumor removed and replaced by postage stamp-sized radiation sources, in the same operation. It’s called GammaTile Therapy.
“We place the radiation sources inside the brain at the site of the surgery, so the radiation begins right at the moment after surgery,” explains Harish Babu, MD, PhD, co-director of the brain tumor program at Upstate and director of minimally invasive neurosurgery.
He says the bioabsorbable collagen tiles, which look similar to flattened Lego pieces, hold their shape as their radiation is delivered. About 50% of the therapeutic dose is delivered in the first 10 days after surgery, with about 95% delivered in six weeks. Over time, the body naturally absorbs the collagen tile.
GammaTile’s radiation source, cesium-131, has a dramatically shorter half-life than iodine-125, which has been used in earlier types of brachytherapy, Babu says. Brachytherapy is a general term for the implantation of radioactive sources adjacent to tissues that may contain cancer cells. The shorter half-life means patients receive the same amount of radiation in a shorter period of time.
Traditional, or external beam, radiation after brain surgery requires almost daily medical visits over a period of several weeks. Side effects can include headaches, hair loss, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, skin and scalp discoloration, and memory or cognitive problems.
GammaTile produces fewer side effects and is designed to allow patients to get on with their lives during treatment.