Moffitt Cancer Center Using Minimally Invasive Laser Technology to Treat Otherwise Inoperable Brain Tumors

March 28, 2014

TAMPA, Fla. Moffitt Cancer Center has acquired a new technology that will enable neurological surgeons to treat tumors in patients with previously inoperable conditions.  Visualase is a minimally invasive MRI-guided laser that can kill tumors found in soft tissue in the brain.

“A few years ago, patients whose tumors were deemed inoperable through standard surgery had little hope.  Now, with a relatively pain-free laser procedure, we are able to treat these tumors and offer hope for these patients,” said Arnold Etame, M.D., Ph.D., neurological surgeon and scientist who is spearheading the laser technology at Moffitt. “The laser surgery is a great option for brain tumor patients who are not good candidates for more aggressive surgery or treatment. As the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida, Moffitt will likely make a significant impact in brain cancer treatment.”

Treating brain lesions has historically been a complicated procedure.  Chemicals and drugs prescribed to eliminate tumors are often blocked by the body’s blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain. Surgery carries a risk because of damage that can be done to surrounding healthy brain tissue, especially for tumors situated very deep in the brain.  Precise laser technology will enable Moffitt’s Neuro-Oncology Department to provide greater treatment options for patients with tumors that are in areas of the brain that cannot be safely accessed through standard surgery.

Laser ablation works by inserting a small, flexible laser probe into the brain.  The probe is no larger than a coffee stirrer. An MRI compatible anchor is attached to the entry, which allows a laser applicator to be attached. Using MRI images that interface with a workstation, doctors are able to precisely locate tumors, and the laser applicator is inserted into the lesion. Laser light then heats and destroys the targeted area, while the workstation provides doctors information on the surrounding healthy tissue to minimize damage. Once the tumor is destroyed, the probe is removed and the small incision is closed with one stitch and a bandage. Patients are typically discharged from the hospital within a day.

Moffitt is one of 39 institutions in the United States that has partnered with Visualase and is the first in the Tampa Bay area to use the technology to treat tumors in the brain. The technology was cleared by the FDA in 2007. Since then, more than 270 brain tumor and radiation necrosis procedures have been successfully completed with the Visualase system.

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the No. 1 cancer hospital in Florida and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” for cancer since 1999. With more than 4,200 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact on the state of nearly $2 billion. For more information, visit, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.