A € 2.5 million Award for Brain Tumour Diagnostics and Treatment

Additional funding for automated intraoperative identification and treatment at the research consortium comprising the Lübeck Department of Neurosurgery, the Medical Laser Centre, the Institute for Biomedical Optics and industrial partners.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding another three-year joint project aimed at neurological diagnostics and treatment of brain tumours. The industrial group project called "
" was funded on 1 August 2018, to use ultrasonics and a new laser procedure to work on the elastic properties of tumours and the resulting resection. The goal is to better recognise tumours in the CNS and thereby enable their radical removal. This approach should effectively protect healthy brain tissues in patients, and help achieve longer life expectancies with a better quality of life.

On October 2017, the Federal Ministry had already granted funding of € 2.3 million to the research group project “NeuroOCT” dedicated to intraoperative, optical illustration of tumours and their boundaries.

Tis second new group is also partnering with the Institute of Biomedical Optics (BMO) at our Universität zu Lübeck and the Lübeck Medical Laser Centre (MLL), each headed by Dr Ralf Brinkmann. Other partners are the Department of Neurosurgery at the Lübeck Campus of the University Medical Center of Schleswig-Holstein under the leadership of Dr med. Matteo Bonsanto, and the companies Söring GmbH (Quickborn) and Asclepion Laser Technologies GmbH (Jena). This consortium is being funded to the tune of € 2.5 million by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under its initiative entitled “Photonic System Solutions for Medicine and Biotech.” Of these funds, € 1.5 million will flow to Lübeck.

About 43,000 new oncological diseases of the CNS occur annually in Germany, and the number is expected to keep rising because of the demographic population trend. Microsurgical resection is the standard procedure for most tumours of the CNS, whereby the survival and quality of life rates depend, among others, on the extent of the resection. Until now, it has been very difficult to intraoperatively identify the boundaries between the tumours and healthy tissues. Another problem is the highly variable rate of dissection when applying ultrasonic sonotrodes or other instruments, not to mention the difficulty in identifying the underlying vascular layouts. Consequently, it is not simple for a surgeon to set the device’s parameters for tumour resection and interoperative bleeding that are mostly arrested by electrically charged bipolar forceps. The disadvantages of this contact-based method to arrest bleeding is that tissues tend to attach to the electrodes, which alters them and makes the tumours and healthy tissue undistinguishable via colour/haptics.

This project aims to apply and evaluate a range of resection methods, with the option to arrest bleeding with lasers. For ultrasonic resection, it is crucial to combine intraoperative observation of the tumour’s spread, the vascular architecture and tumour elasticity. Hence, the sub-goals are to derive innovative theragnostic solutions comprising optic diagnostics and therapeutic laser and ultrasonic instruments. We expect markedly better tumour resections in clinical environments, as a result of combining opto-mechanistic tissue analysis using optical coherence elastography (OCE), one of the most talked-about research topics nowadays, with new resection and tissue coagulation options. This work complements that of the NeuroOCT group, whose purpose is to identify tumour structures using intraoperative optical coherence tomography. Both consortiums are thus focussed on new fields of research, which will certainly boost the image of the Lübeck Campus on the international arena.

An ultrasonic instrument applied to the model of a brain (Picture: Söring GmbH)