New glowing medical tool helps local surgeons spot brain cancer

FULLERTON, Calif. (KABC) -- There's new hope for patients suffering from Glioblastoma, a lethal form of brain cancer that took the lives of Sens. John McCain and Ted Kennedy.

Southern California surgeons are now using an illuminating new procedure to help improve the odds of survival.

Vibrant pink and orange hues light the path for brain cancer surgeons.

In the operating room, the glowing tumor reveals where the cancer begins and ends, giving surgeons a precise map to take out cancerous cells and preserve healthy brain tissue.

Julio Mezza, a 43-year-old patient at St. Jude Medical Center, received his surgery just four days before Christmas.

"I'm amazed," said Mezza, "Because I've seen the MRI after surgery and I was like, whoa!"

To illuminate the cancerous brain cells, patients are infused with an optical imaging agent called Gleolan.

It's been the brightest spot in Mezza's five-month battle with an aggressive form of Glioblastoma.

"My head was really hurting," he said, "I was nauseous, I was vomiting at work"

Mezza and his wife Aileen recall the moment they learned the news.

"We've never looked at this as a death sentence," she said, "It was right here that I came down and cried in this healing garden when they told us here."

St. Jude Medical Center is the first in the L.A.-Metro area to offer this imaging tool. Neurosurgeon Dr. Lars Anker with St. Jude Medical Center described Mezza's condition.

"His post-operative MRI scan did not show any residual tumor," he said.

Anker said studies show patients who undergo removal of the tumor with Gleolan survive an average of four months longer than those who had conventional surgery.

Mezza was up and moving just days after his procedure. The couple has four children, including two teenagers and two little girls.

They believe their faith in God is guiding them and hope Mezza's case will light the way for other patients.

"It's just really neat to have that hope and we know we are in good hands," Ailleen Mezza said.

To learn more about Julio Mezza's journey go to
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