Celebrating Life: Jill Colter (right) celebrates her 50th birthday with her mom, Elizabeth (left), two months after undergoing an innovative procedure to treat a brain tumor resulting from Stage IV melanoma.

For many patients with brain tumors or other abnormal tissue located deep in the brain, treatment options have been limited. Last year, Jill Colter, now 50, discovered that a brain tumor resulting from Stage IV melanoma had returned. “Several years earlier, I had treatment with surgery and radiation, but the tumor came back,” Jill says. Due to the location of Jill’s tumor and her prior radiation, surgery and further radiation weren’t possible to treat her tumor.

Jill was referred to neurosurgeon Alexandra Golby, MD, Director of Image-guided Neurosurgery and Clinical Co-director of the Advanced Multimodality Image Guided Operating (AMIGO) Suite at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a key member of the Center for Neuro-Oncology team at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

“For many patients like Jill, traditional surgical methods often aren’t feasible because of the risks, and medications or radiation may not be effective,” explains Dr. Golby. “Due to these challenges, we have devoted years to researching other ways to reach these areas of the brain in order to help patients with brain tumors, severe epilepsy, and other neurological conditions.”

Dr. Golby recommended interstitial laser ablation, a new technique that uses image guidance (a GPS-like system for the brain) to direct a laser fiber to the precise area that needs to be treated. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and specialized software are then used to measure heat treatment delivered through the laser fiber. Dr. Golby performed Jill’s procedure in the AMIGO Suite at BWH, which brings together all of the technological elements required for interstitial laser ablation. The AMIGO Suite is a state-of-the-art medical and surgical research environment that houses a complete array of advanced imaging equipment and interventional surgical systems.

Jill was able to go home one day after her procedure, without interruption of her daily activities. In June, she celebrated her one-year anniversary since her procedure and has had no recurrence. “I feel so grateful to have access to such advanced medical care, as well as a wonderful support network of family, friends, and caregivers,” Jill says. And, Jill is looking forward to celebrating another very important day this summer – her 51st birthday, a birthday she just happens to share with Dr. Golby.

– Jessica F.

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