Dye to be used in initial surgery for brain tumours

New NICE guidance has said that a chemical dye should be used in initial surgery to assist neurosurgeons in the successful removal of a brain tumour.

Taking 5-amino levulinic acid (5-ALA) prior to surgery means that tumour cells glow pink under ultra violet light, meaning a surgeon using a fluorescence-detecting microscope to better identify which areas of the brain are cancerous and which are healthy.

England’s 27 neurosurgical units expect to have an average of around 55 patients requiring 5-ALA per year, costing the NHS between £1 million-5 million each year. An estimated 11,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK.

Tom Roques, a consultant clinical oncologist at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the NICE committee, said: "People with brain tumours will see great benefits when these NICE guidelines are implemented. Going through cancer treatment is a very difficult time in a person’s life and we want patients to have the highest quality care possible. The roll out of 5-ALA will see more patients treated to a gold standard level of care and will help delay the recurrence of brain tumours.”

Dame Tessa Jowell urged the government to make 5-ALA available across the NHS in one of her final speeches to the House of Lords, with Prime Minister Theresa May announcing £40 million of government funding for the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission to stimulate innovative new research and clinical practice to boost outcomes of people diagnosed with brain tumours.

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