New Laser Treatment for Brain Tumors Used on West Palm Beach Man

Light energy burns away deep and difficult brain tumors in the procedure

By Diana Gonzalez
|  Thursday, Apr 11, 2013  |  Updated 11:59 PM EDT
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Thomas Jambeck, 64, of West Palm Beach is the first patient in the state to be treated with a new laser procedure for brain tumors. Jambeck and Dr. Ricardo Komotar spoke about his case.

Thomas Jambeck, 64, of West Palm Beach is the first patient in the state to be treated with a new laser procedure for brain tumors. Jambeck and Dr. Ricardo Komotar spoke about his case.

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A 64-year-old South Florida man is the first in the state to be treated with a new laser procedure for brain tumors.

Light energy, delivered through a laser probe the size of a strand of thin spaghetti, is now being used to burn away deep and difficult brain tumors. The revolutionary procedure was performed Feb. 22 at University of Miami Hospital.

"Using MR thermal therapy, you heat up the tip of this laser catheter, and you can essentially cook the tumor from the inside out," explained Dr. Ricardo Komotar, the director of surgical neuro-oncology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. "But you protect all the critical structures that are around it and that's what's so exciting about this technology."

The patient is Thomas Jambeck of West Palm Beach. Malignant melanoma had spread to his brain.

"I was stumbling all over the place and that's what took us to the MRI that identified the two tumors," Jambeck said.

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His radiation oncologist, Dr. Anthony Addesa, used Cyberknife – a non-invasive, precise way to deliver high-dose radiation to tumors – but it failed to control one of them. So Jambeck was referred to Dr. Komotar at UM. He's the first in Florida to use the Visualase Thermal Therapy System.

"At this point it is a great option for those carefully selected patients that have tried other modalities and have failed," Komotar said.

He called it a game-changing technique that he expects will eventually become a first line of therapy for many patients.

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Currently, the patients who are candidates for the treatment are those with primary or metastatic brain tumors that are considered inoperable or not controlled with traditional treatments.

The laser procedure is actually performed in an MRI room, not an operating room, and only one stitch is needed to close the tiny opening into the brain. The tumor is heated to 122-140 degrees and it only takes a few minutes.

The MRI scanner is equipped with special hardware that allows the doctor to visualize in real time the temperature of the tissue around the catheter and know which tissue is being destroyed and which tissue is not.

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The day after his procedure, Jambeck left the hospital.

"I actually felt perfect on the way home. We needed to run an errand and we stopped at Lowe's and I was on a cart running through the store," he said. "I felt as if nothing at all had happened."

While that tumor is gone, others have appeared. The new laser treatment will again be an option if all else fails.

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