A Study of the Specificity and Sensitivity of 5- Aminolevulinic Acid (ALA) Fluorescence in Malignant Brain Tumors

2014-08-27 03:13:32 | BioPortfolio


Extent of resection is a very important prognostic factor affecting survival in individuals diagnosed with a malignant glioma. However, the infiltrative nature of the malignant glioma tumor cells produces indistinct borders between normal and malignant tissues, and the lack of easily identifiable tumor margins confounds attempts at total resection. The investigators propose to identify the borders of malignant gliomas intraoperatively using oral 5-aminolevulinic Acid (5-ALA) which results in fluorescence of the malignant cells and thereby provide an opportunity for more complete tumor resection.

When exogenous 5-ALA is provided at increased concentration the tumor cells will become fluorescent under ultraviolet light. This feature identifies the tumor cells intraoperatively and facilitates complete resection.

Data collection will include measurement of dose-limiting toxicity, tumor fluorescence, and tumor density. Data analysis will evaluate toxicity, sensitivity, and specificity of 5-ALA. Time-to-progression, one year survival rate and total survival will be measured as a function of the extent of resection. (Details below in Detailed Description.)

Following completion of the phase 1 portion of this trial, an additional 15 subjects will be entered at the recommended phase 2 dose level in order to further define the above parameters at the recommended phase 2 dose level.


Specific Aims:

This study is intended to investigate the utility, safety and efficacy of 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) induced brain tumor fluorescence during malignant brain tumor resection. Specifically this study is intended to:

Establish a safe dose for oral 5-ALA administration. Determine the sensitivity and specificity of 5-ALA mediated fluorescence for malignant glioma tissue in the brain.

Compare the neurosurgeon's intra-operative estimate of the extent of malignant glioma resection (as guided by tumor fluorescence) with the actual extent of resection determined by post-operative imaging.

Compare time-to-progression and survival to that in comparable cases performed without the aid of 5-ALA.

Background and Significance:

There is a considerable body of literature that suggests that completeness of resection is a positive factor for longer term survival in individuals with malignant glioma. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to completely remove a malignant brain tumor because during surgery it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish tumor from normal brain. It would be very helpful if there would be some way to help the surgeon make this distinction. Malignant glioma tumor cells (more so than normal cells) contain the biosynthetic pathways to produce protoporphyrin from a naturally occurring amino acid, 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA). Protoporphyrin is the immediate precursor to hemoglobin (it is hemoglobin without the iron atom) and is fluorescent under blue light. When exogenous 5-ALA is provided at increased concentration, protoporphyrin concentration in the malignant cell increases at a rate far greater than normal brain cells and renders the malignant cell fluorescent red under blue light. This feature distinguishes the tumor cells from normal cells intraoperatively and facilitates complete resection.

Recent studies in Germany have confirmed the utility of pre-operative oral 5-ALA and intraoperative brain tumor fluorescence in aiding the resection of brain tumors in individuals with malignant brain tumors. These studies have led to oral 5-ALA to be approved for this indication by the European Medicines Agency (The European Medicines Agency comments and approval can be found at:, but oral 5-ALA has not been approved for this indication by the United States FDA. This proposal is a phase 1 and phase 2 trial that will hopefully lead to FDA approval of oral 5-ALA for intra-operative visualization of malignant brain tumors.

Experimental Plan and Methods:

In the phase 1 part of this proposed study, a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 18 patients will be administered oral 5-ALA 4 hours prior to surgery in cohorts of 3 at five escalating doses of 5-ALA (10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 mg/kg).

The following data will be collected:

- Dose-limiting toxicity data; i.e., nausea, vomiting, liver function, photo-sensitivity, survival

- Tumor fluorescence assessed by neurosurgeon (0 to +++) in three distinct areas of fluorescence (Strong fluorescence, Weak fluorescence, No fluorescence)

- Tumor density from biopsies obtained by the neurosurgeon in the same three distinct areas of fluorescence and assessed by neuropathology (Solid tumor, Tumor mixed infiltrating normal brain, No tumor)

- Neurosurgeon's intra-operative estimate of residual tumor

- Neuroradiologist's estimate of post-operative residual tumor on MRI

- Time to progression by MRI

- Survival (time to progression, one year survival rate and total survival)

This trial will evaluate:

- single dose toxicity of oral 5-ALA given pre-operatively;

- sensitivity and specificity of 5-ALA - Protoporphyrin IX (Pp IX) as an intraoperative fluorescent detection agent and aid for resection of tumor tissue remaining in the walls of the resection cavity of primary and recurrent malignant brain tumors;

- relationship of the neurosurgeon's estimate of the extent of malignant glioma resection (as guided by tumor fluorescence) to the actual extent of resection determined by post-operative imaging;

- time-to-progression, one year survival rate and total survival as a function of the extent of resection.

Following completion of the phase 1 portion of this trial, an additional 15 subjects will be entered at the recommended phase 2 dose level in order to further define the above parameters at the recommended phase 2 dose level.

Discussions statisticians have led to the development of a number of 2x2 tables and 3x3 tables of data analysis that will lead to establishment of the sensitivity and specificity of fluorescence-guided brain tumor resection compared to conventional brain tumor resection techniques.

Study Design

Control: Uncontrolled, Endpoint Classification: Safety/Efficacy Study, Intervention Model: Single Group Assignment, Masking: Open Label, Primary Purpose: Treatment


Brain Neoplasms


5-aminolevulinic acid


Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
United States


Not yet recruiting


Southern Illinois University

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2014-08-27T03:13:32-0400

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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

Neoplasms of the intracranial components of the central nervous system, including the cerebral hemispheres, basal ganglia, hypothalamus, thalamus, brain stem, and cerebellum. Brain neoplasms are subdivided into primary (originating from brain tissue) and secondary (i.e., metastatic) forms. Primary neoplasms are subdivided into benign and malignant forms. In general, brain tumors may also be classified by age of onset, histologic type, or presenting location in the brain.

A collective term for precoordinated organ/neoplasm headings locating neoplasms by organ, as BRAIN NEOPLASMS; DUODENAL NEOPLASMS; LIVER NEOPLASMS; etc.

Neoplasms located in the brain ventricles, including the two lateral, the third, and the fourth ventricle. Ventricular tumors may be primary (e.g., CHOROID PLEXUS NEOPLASMS and GLIOMA, SUBEPENDYMAL), metastasize from distant organs, or occur as extensions of locally invasive tumors from adjacent brain structures.

Benign and malignant intra-axial tumors of the MESENCEPHALON; PONS; or MEDULLA OBLONGATA of the BRAIN STEM. Primary and metastatic neoplasms may occur in this location. Clinical features include ATAXIA, cranial neuropathies (see CRANIAL NERVE DISEASES), NAUSEA, hemiparesis (see HEMIPLEGIA), and quadriparesis. Primary brain stem neoplasms are more frequent in children. Histologic subtypes include GLIOMA; HEMANGIOBLASTOMA; GANGLIOGLIOMA; and EPENDYMOMA.

A compound produced from succinyl-CoA and GLYCINE as an intermediate in heme synthesis. It is used as a PHOTOCHEMOTHERAPY for actinic KERATOSIS.

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