Object: Greater extent of resection (EOR) for patients with low-grade glioma (LGG) corresponds with improved clinical outcome, yet remains a central challenge to the neurosurgical oncologist. Although 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA)-induced tumor fluorescence is a strategy that can improve EOR in gliomas, only glioblastomas routinely fluoresce following 5-ALA administration. Intraoperative confocal microscopy adapts conventional confocal technology to a handheld probe that provides real-time fluorescent imaging at up to 1000× magnification. The authors report a combined approach in which intraoperative confocal microscopy is used to visualize 5-ALA tumor fluorescence in LGGs during the course of microsurgical resection.
Methods: Following 5-ALA administration, patients with newly diagnosed LGG underwent microsurgical resection. Intraoperative confocal microscopy was conducted at the following points: 1) initial encounter with the tumor; 2) the midpoint of tumor resection; and 3) the presumed brain-tumor interface. Histopathological analysis of these sites correlated tumor infiltration with intraoperative cellular tumor fluorescence.
Results: Ten consecutive patients with WHO Grades I and II gliomas underwent microsurgical resection with 5-ALA and intraoperative confocal microscopy. Macroscopic tumor fluorescence was not evident in any patient. However, in each case, intraoperative confocal microscopy identified tumor fluorescence at a cellular level, a finding that corresponded to tumor infiltration on matched histological analyses.
Conclusions: Intraoperative confocal microscopy can visualize cellular 5-ALA-induced tumor fluorescence within LGGs and at the brain-tumor interface. To assess the clinical value of 5-ALA for high-grade gliomas in conjunction with neuronavigation, and for LGGs in combination with intraoperative confocal microscopy and neuronavigation, a Phase IIIa randomized placebo-controlled trial (BALANCE) is underway at the authors' institution.