Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital Makes Breakthrough in Treating Brain Tumors

Sep 20, 2013

Neurosurgeons at Upstate’s Golisano Children’s Hospital say they’re the first in the world to use a minimally invasive laser therapy to treat a rare disease that causes tumors to grow on the brain. 

Dr. Zulma Tovar-Spinoza, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital.
Credit Giulia Vasconcelos / WAER News

Doctor Zulma Tovar-Spinoza says the M-R-I technology uses lasers to eradicate the non-cancerous tumors, which cause seizures.  She says the difference between open surgery and the new procedure is night and day...

Three-year-old Arianna Failla was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis when she was just three months old, and has been through three laser procedures.   She's one of 13 patients to have the procedure and one of only 3 with tuberous sclerosis.  Her mother Jennifer says she’s already seeing signficiant progress on many fronts...

Dr. Zulma Tovar-Spinoza, 3-year-old Arianna Failla, and her mother, Jennifer.
Credit Giulia Vasconcelos / WAER News

Jennifer Failla says they notice Arianna doing something different every day, including improved walking and balance.   She realizes Arianna was a "guinea pig," and that others are waiting to hear their story and,  hopes it helps others who might have the rare genetic disease.   Dr. Tovar-Spinoza says only 5 to 6 pediatric centers in the world use this technology in children, and Upstate had its first experience last year.  She says it's approved by the FDA, is not experimental, and is covered by insurance.    Dr. Tovar Spinoza admits it's too early to tell what will happen 5 years down the road with these patients, but she says what matters is they're changing lives for the better.