Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cooking Tumors with Lasers

Last May, the FDA approved a device from Monteris Medical, Inc. that uses an MRI-guided laser to kill tumors that are otherwise inoperable.  There are only three such devices installed in US Hospitals, the latest of which went live at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis just earlier this month.

The press release is below.

Treating Untreatable Brain Tumors: FDA Approves New Laser Surgery

Monteris Medical Earns 510(k) Clearance for AutoLITT(TM)

KALAMAZOO, Mich., and WINNIPEG, Manitoba, May 13 /PRNewswire/ -- An MRI-guided laser surgery method, in investigational use at both The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, holds promise for thousands of brain tumor patients and has earned clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in neurosurgery. The first applications of the technology are expected to be for the treatment of otherwise inoperable brain tumors.

The AutoLITT System uses an MRI-guided laser probe, passed through a small bur hole in the skull, to deliver laser interstitial thermal therapy ("LITT") to heat and coagulate the tumor from the inside. High-intensity laser energy is applied directly to the tumor, rather than passing through normal tissue, while the MRI measures the temperature inside the brain, showing thermal damage as it happens and facilitating precise control of the treatment. Once coagulated, the treated tumor mass is dead.

"The AutoLITT procedure delivers new-found hope for patients who have previously been given limited options in the treatment of their tumors," explains James Duncan, president and CEO of Monteris Medical, the AutoLITT manufacturer. The system offers a potential option for patients with tumors that are too difficult or too risky to treat, tumors that don't respond to other treatments, and tumors in patients that are otherwise not good candidates for surgery or radiosurgery.

About Monteris Medical

Monteris Medical(TM) Inc. is a medical device company dedicated to developing new cancer treatment technologies that improve clinical outcomes, quality of life, and the cost and complexity of care. The company's U.S. corporate headquarters are in Kalamazoo, Michigan. R&D headquarters are in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The website is

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Delivering Chemo Directly to Tumors

Traditionally, chemotherapy is given orally in the form of pills or intravenously.  The medication would then travel through the blood stream to the affected cells and do their work.  One of the main problems with the traditional treatments is that the dosage has to be pretty high in order for it to have an effect on the tumors, which in turn results in a number of side effects (such as hair loss, vomiting, and compromised immune system).  Secondly, for brain tumors, the medication has to cross the blood-brain-barrier, further limiting its effectiveness.

We’ve been investigating a relatively new process of administering chemotherapy for brain cancer patients.  A surgeon would insert a tiny catheter into the patient’s brain, then chemo would be given in tiny drops over the course of a few days directly on the cancerous tissue.  Since the dosage is a fraction of the traditional dose, the side effects would be fewer and milder.

Obviously, the big risk is the initial surgery to insert the catheter, but this does sound like a promising new method to treat brain tumor while minimizing the side effects of traditional treatments.  There are currently clinical trials progressing in both adults and children.

This article has more information:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

FOX Sports and St. Jude

This NFL season, FOX Sports wants football fans across America to get in the huddle with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and help lead the drive against childhood cancer.

This fall, FOX Sports has teamed with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to help kids who are sidelined by cancer and other deadly diseases. This season-long partnership will include public service announcements that will be aired all season long—including Super Bowl Sunday—and feature additional on-air mentions and other St. Jude events and activities.

Read more.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Father Fernando Suarez

A couple of weeks ago, my aunt told me that Father Fernando Suarez would be coming to Connecticut to do a healing mass.  Father Suarez original comes from the Philippines and has claimed to be able to heal all types of ailments from a sore neck to blindness to cancer.  My aunt and my mom insisted that we take Isabella to the healing mass and although I was skeptical, agreed.
While we were at Camp Sunshine a few weeks ago, we shared many stories with other families going through what we are going to now.  We heard stories of people taking their child to all sorts of “non-conventional” healers including some crazy stories with faith healers and with people flopping around the ground as they were “healed”.  Up until a few weeks ago, Julianne and I didn’t have to consider these other healings because the traditional treatment seemed to have worked and that stuff was for desperate families.  But we've tried a bunch of these alternative healings including energy healing, reiki healing, and now here we were walking into the church to attend something that we would have thought was crazy a couple months ago.
The Mass itself was just like any other Mass and Father Suarez gave the homily.  Just from hearing him speak a few sentences, I could immediately sense his kindness and sincerity.  He was also very entertaining and shared many stories from his past.   My favorite one was when he returned to a Canadian church after three years.  He reunited with a couple that he met on his first visit.  The couple was having problems having children and they came to see Father Suarez to help them out.  Well it turns out that after seeing Father Suarez, they had three children in three years, and now they were coming to see him to make it stop! 
The healing portion was scheduled for after the mass.  People who needed healing would walk to the front of the church where Father Suarez would pray over them and heal them.  The priest describing the process to us even joked that you don’t have to fall to the ground to be healed and you don’t have to go back to the end of the line to be healed again!  But just in case you do fall, they were prepared with catchers who stood behind you as you were healed.  (“Just be sure to pick a catcher bigger than you, or it could get messy”, he joked.  Julianne and I laughed thinking about those stories we heard about people convulsing on the ground.) The whole process would only take a few seconds per family/person, but we were dreading it because there were hundreds and hundreds of people attended.  We were sitting in the back of the church and there were hundreds more people waiting in the adjacent parish hall that couldn’t fit in the church. 
Fortunately, they called up families with children who were 7 years old and younger, so we were one of the first ones to be seen when we took Isabella up.  Julianne, my mom, and I walked up with Isabella.  Next to us was another family who I overheard tell Father that their child also had a brain tumor.  When it was finally our turn, Father Suarez walked up to us and we told him that she has a brain tumor.  He told us to close our eyes as he prayed over us and at that moment, I felt a wave of air go over me.  I don’t know if he was blowing on me, or if it was the ceiling fans, or what it was, but I felt a giant sense of comfort and peace.  My mom and Julianne were crying as we finished up, thanked Father Suarez, and left the church.
We don’t have another MRI scheduled until next weekend so we won’t know anything until then, but Julianne and I were glad to have gone.
We would also like to give a special thanks to our family friend, Reggie, who provided us with special tickets to attend the mass inside the church.  Without those tickets, we would have been in the other building and waited much longer.
If you have a few minutes, I urge you to visit Father Suarez’s website ( and read his amazing story.  He and his group travel worldwide to do healing masses and actually went to Greece this weekend following the healing mass in Connecticut.  He also started a foundation where they feed thousands of malnourished children in the Philippines.
Father Suarez readily admits that he does not heal people himself, but he is just an instrument for God who actually does the healing.  If we had more people like him to spread hope, faith, and love, we would live in a much better world.