Dealing with brain tumors can be a lot tricky and surgery is often the only way to remove them.
Theoretically, a brain tumor occurs when abnormal cells form within the brain. There are two main types of tumors: malignant or cancerous tumors and benign tumors. Cancerous tumors can be divided into primary tumors that started within the brain and those that spread from somewhere else known as brain metastasis tumors.
All types of brain tumors may produce symptoms that vary depending on the part of the brain involved. These may include headaches, seizures, problem with vision, vomiting, and mental changes. The headache is classically worst in the morning and goes away with vomiting. More specific problems may include difficulty in walking, speaking and with sensation.As the disease progresses unconsciousness may occur. Diagnosis is usually by medical examination along with computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging. This is then often confirmed by biopsy.
Indeed, operations can be very difficult, requiring a steady hand and an expert eye to remove all of the tumor. But soon researchers could be able to paint tumors to make them MORE VISIBLE – thanks to one of nature’s deadliest venoms.
Dr Jim Olson, a paediatric oncologist and researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, has long been frustrated with the difficulties. When his professor asked him what he wanted to do with his life, he said he wanted to “deliver light to cancer.”
In essence, he wanted to make cancer cells shine so they could be more easily detected. He’s now helped develop a technique that could transform the way we fight tumours – all thanks to a scorpion’s sting.
Tumour Paint is a drug that attaches to tumour cells – and glows. This makes it a lot easier for surgeons to tell the difference between tumours and healthy cells. The paint is produced using peptides from the Deathstalker, a species of scorpion with a paralysing sting.
At the same time, Olson is pursuing other unconventional ways to tackle cancer. He set up Project Violet – named after a young cancer patient who donated her brain to science before dying – to raise money through crowdsourcing so that promising drugs spend less time in development.
Blaze Bioscience, the company Olson founded, filed paper work in Australia Wednesday to begin human trials on Tumor Paint. The goal is to help surgeons navigate difficult tumor-removing operations in real-time, as well as to guide new therapies for brain, breast, prostate, skin, colon, and other cancers.
We’re hoping with this Tumor Paint tool that they’ll be able to see tumors that the surgeon wasn’t able to get. My goal is that surgeons will be able to remove the tumor and give patients a better outcome,” he said.