Red-light excitation of protoporphyrin IX fluorescence for subsurface tumor detection

J Neurosurg 128:1690–1697, 2018

The objective of this study was to detect 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA)-induced tumor fluorescence from glioma below the surface of the surgical field by using red-light illumination.

METHODS To overcome the shallow tissue penetration of blue light, which maximally excites the ALA-induced fluorophore protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) but is also strongly absorbed by hemoglobin and oxyhemoglobin, a system was developed to illuminate the surgical field with red light (620–640 nm) matching a secondary, smaller absorption peak of PpIX and detecting the fluorescence emission through a 650-nm longpass filter. This wide-field spectroscopic imaging system was used in conjunction with conventional blue-light fluorescence for comparison in 29 patients undergoing craniotomy for resection of high-grade glioma, low-grade glioma, meningioma, or metastasis.

RESULTS Although, as expected, red-light excitation is less sensitive to PpIX in exposed tumor, it did reveal tumor at a depth up to 5 mm below the resection bed in 22 of 24 patients who also exhibited PpIX fluorescence under blue-light excitation during the course of surgery.

CONCLUSIONS Red-light excitation of tumor-associated PpIX fluorescence below the surface of the surgical field can be achieved intraoperatively and enables detection of subsurface tumor that is not visualized under conventional bluelight excitation. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT02191488 (

Quantitative fluorescence in intracranial tumor: implications for ALA-induced PpIX as an intraoperative biomarker

J Neurosurg 115:11–17, 2011. DOI: 10.3171/2011.2.JNS101451

Accurate discrimination between tumor and normal tissue is crucial for optimal tumor resection. Qualitative fluorescence of protoporphyrin IX (PpIX), synthesized endogenously following d-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) administration, has been used for this purpose in high-grade glioma (HGG). The authors show that diagnostically significant but visually imperceptible concentrations of PpIX can be quantitatively measured in vivo and used to discriminate normal from neoplastic brain tissue across a range of tumor histologies.

Methods. The authors studied 14 patients with diagnoses of low-grade glioma (LGG), HGG, meningioma, and metastasis under an institutional review board–approved protocol for fluorescence-guided resection. The primary aim of the study was to compare the diagnostic capabilities of a highly sensitive, spectrally resolved quantitative fluorescence approach to conventional fluorescence imaging for detection of neoplastic tissue in vivo.

Results. A significant difference in the quantitative measurements of PpIX concentration occurred in all tumor groups compared with normal brain tissue. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis of PpIX concentration as a diagnostic variable for detection of neoplastic tissue yielded a classification efficiency of 87% (AUC = 0.95, specificity = 92%, sensitivity = 84%) compared with 66% (AUC = 0.73, specificity = 100%, sensitivity = 47%) for conventional fluorescence imaging (p < 0.0001). More than 81% (57 of 70) of the quantitative fluorescence measurements that were below the threshold of the surgeon’s visual perception were classified correctly in an analysis of all tumors.

Conclusions. These findings are clinically profound because they demonstrate that ALA-induced PpIX is a targeting biomarker for a variety of intracranial tumors beyond HGGs. This study is the first to measure quantitative ALA-induced PpIX concentrations in vivo, and the results have broad implications for guidance during resection of intracranial tumors.