September 18 / 2018

OTTAWA, ON – September 17, 2018 – The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation today announces a special grant to The Ottawa Hospital to fund the very first off-trial treatments of Canadian brain cancer patients using 5-Aminolevulinic Acid (5-ALA) and Fluorescence Guided Surgery (FGS).

Together, 5-ALA and FGS allow surgeons to better identify and remove cancerous cells from the brain, leading to improved tumour resection, fewer surgical complications, and better patient outcomes. Patients receive the 5-ALA drug orally several hours before surgery, which then concentrates within malignant glioma cells. These cancer cells then fluoresce (glow) under a special light, allowing the surgeon to visualize the tumour using an operating microscope. Current techniques use an operating microscope with standard “white” light, which permits identification of the central aspect of the tumour, but results in difficulty with visualization of tumour borders where the tumour blends with normal brain tissue. The Ottawa Hospital is the first center in Canada to utilize this approach in a non-trial setting.

Dr. John Sinclair of The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa is leading the project, having received special training in FGS techniques last year in Zurich. “Fluorescence-guided surgery is much more effective for brain cancers than surgeries performed with traditional white light,” he says. “It is a dramatic difference which helps the surgeon to remove more cancerous cells with improved accuracy, which benefits the patient in multiple ways.” Dr. Sinclair adds that surgeons in Europe have been using 5- ALA and FGS for more than a decade, and this has now become the standard of care in those countries.

This grant was made possible by the generosity of donors throughout the Ottawa community, who have raised $15,000 for these first patients and more than $30,000 to support infrastructure for the approach. The usage of 5-ALA and FGS is an important addition to the existing therapies available to local brain cancer patients, including immunotherapy clinical trials and technologies like the CyberKnife. “These tools and treatments can all work together to give patients the best possible chance when treating their disease,” Dr. Sinclair says. “We are pleased to be able to offer our patients advances, such as, CyberKnife and now FGS as we continue to develop and improve our existing treatments and protocols.”

The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation has been supporting local doctors and researchers for two decades, focusing on the most promising initiatives for difficult-to-treat cancers. “We’ve been looking forward to this surgical approach being available in Ottawa for a long time,” says John Ouellette, Vice President of Philanthropy at the Cancer Foundation. “We know it will be a complete game changer for local patients facing brain cancer, where the outlook is sometimes so difficult, as we saw with Gord Downie and Senator John McCain. I have friends here in Ottawa living with brain cancer right now, and knowing our community was able to bring something here that may one day help them and many others is just monumental. We’re thrilled to be able to support Dr. Sinclair and his team as they work to give patients the best options possible, which will save lives, so close to home.”

About the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation

The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is the voice for cancer survivorship in Eastern Ontario, and a leader in our community in providing local residents with increased access to person-centred care through Cancer Coaching, innovative cancer research and a world-class clinical trials program. For more information please visit


Christian McCuaig, Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation | office: 613.247.1920 ext. 220

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