Theranostics 2019; 9(12):3555-3564. doi:10.7150/thno.31811

Research Paper

Laser brain cancer surgery in a xenograft model guided by optical coherence tomography

Nitesh Katta1, Arnold D Estrada1✉, Austin B McElroy1, Aleksandra Gruslova2, Meagan Oglesby2, Andrew G Cabe2, Marc D Feldman2, RY Declan Fleming1, Andrew J Brenner2, Thomas E Milner1

1. University of Texas at Austin
2. University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

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Katta N, Estrada AD, McElroy AB, Gruslova A, Oglesby M, Cabe AG, Feldman MD, Fleming RYD, Brenner AJ, Milner TE. Laser brain cancer surgery in a xenograft model guided by optical coherence tomography. Theranostics 2019; 9(12):3555-3564. doi:10.7150/thno.31811. Available from

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Higher precision surgical devices are needed for tumor resections near critical brain structures. The goal of this study is to demonstrate feasibility of a system capable of precise and bloodless tumor ablation. An image-guided laser surgical system is presented for excision of brain tumors in vivo in a murine xenograft model. The system combines optical coherence tomography (OCT) guidance with surgical lasers for high-precision tumor ablation (Er:YAG) and microcirculation coagulation (Thulium (Tm) fiber laser).

Methods: A fluorescent human glioblastoma cell line was injected into mice and allowed to grow four weeks. Craniotomies were performed and tumors were imaged with confocal fluorescence microscopy. The mice were subsequently OCT imaged prior, during and after laser coagulation and/or ablation. The prior OCT images were used to compute three-dimensional tumor margin and angiography images, which guided the coagulation and ablation steps. Histology of the treated regions was then compared to post-treatment OCT images.

Results: Tumor sizing based on OCT margin detection matched histology to within experimental error. Although fluorescence microscopy imaging showed the tumors were collocated with OCT imaging, margin assessment using confocal microscopy failed to see the extent of the tumor beyond ~ 250 µm in depth, as verified by OCT and histology. The two-laser approach to surgery utilizing Tm wavelength for coagulation and Er:YAG for ablation yielded bloodless resection of tumor regions with minimal residual damage as seen in histology.

Conclusion: Precise and bloodless tumor resection under OCT image guidance is demonstrated in the murine xenograft brain cancer model. Tumor margins and vasculature are accurately made visible without need for exogenous contrast agents.

Keywords: Optical Coherence Tomography, laser ablation, image-guided surgery, brain cancer