In Brain News, Campaign News, Press Releases, Uncategorized

5-ALA Treatment is being rolled out in every neurological centre in England, as part of the NHS’ contribution to the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission.

The innovative cancer treatment aid ‘5-ALA’ is now available across the country, the Health Secretary has announced today. 
The ‘pink drink’ 5-ALA uses fluorescent dye and ultraviolet light to make cancerous cells glow under UV light, enabling surgeons to more accurately identify the affected areas of the brain, helping tackle some of the hardest to treat cases and make sure healthy cells are left untouched.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
‘Tessa Jowell fought passionately and courageously for more recognition of rare brain cancers before she tragically passed away last year. One year on, the effects of her tireless campaigning can already be seen. I am proud to announce we have now rolled out this groundbreaking treatment aid across the country, transforming care for 2,000 patients every year – a fitting testament to Tessa’s memory.”

More about the treatment

5-Amino-Levulinic Acid (5-ALA), or Gliolan, is taken orally by patients with high grade tumours several hours ahead of surgery (5-ALA may also be referred to as the pink drink). During surgery the surgical team uses ultraviolet light to identify cancerous tumour cells which glow pink as a result of 5-ALA. This enables the surgeon to resect more cancerous tissue and conserve healthy tissue which can have a positive effect on the symptoms and side effects that a person experiences after treatment. Because 5-ALA is taken orally it is classified as a treatment and not a medical device. We represented patients on the NICE committee that put this treatment in to the service guidelines.

What it means for you

  • The research is currently around use for high grade gliomas. There is no evidence that 5-ALA improves resection of low grade tumours.
  • It is available in the four nations, but patients should check if they are having surgery. It isn’t appropriate for every tumour type.
  • The investment into neurosurgery as a first line treatment has been a long time coming, so it is great to see that at last this treatment aid is being rolled out all across England.

We know that brain surgery is scary, in large due to potential complications and damage to healthy tissue. So, anything that helps with precision in brain surgery can only be good. The brain is a fragile and privileged site, so preservation of function is key.

It’ll mean less invasive surgery for patients which means healing is quicker, and cosmetically there should be less trauma to the surgical site. This means people can recover more quickly and focus on what’s important to them – they can be people first and foremost.

The brain tumour patient guide to care and treatment