Gleolan (5-ALA) for Glioma Surgery

Gleolan (aminolevulinic acid hydrochloride) is one of the newest tools approved for use in glioma surgery. Also called ALA HCI or 5-ALA, it’s an optical imaging agent that highlights tumor cells, making them easier for surgeons to see during tumor removal.


Hermelin Brain Tumor Center was instrumental in getting Gleolan approved, participating in the clinical trial that led to the FDA signing off on its use.

How does Gleolan work for glioma treatment?

Even with the most modern technology, it’s often difficult for surgeons to determine if they have removed all of a brain tumor. Glioma treatment can present a particular challenge, since the tumors often have “finger-like” projections that extend into different parts of the brain.

Gleolan is a dye that makes those tiny projections more visible. Patients drink Gleolan a few hours before glioma surgery. The compound turns the harmful tumor cells bright pink or magenta, increasing their visibility under a special blue light for more thorough tumor removal.

In the initial randomized, controlled clinical trial performed in the U.S., some patients were given Gleolan before glioma surgery. They had twice the rate of survival without progression after six months compared to patients who didn’t receive the dye.

Gleolan side effects

The most commonly reported side effect of Gleolan is minor to moderate gastrointestinal discomfort and sensitivity to light. Patients who elect to use the dye must remain in a dark environment for 48-72 hours following surgery. This safeguard protects against temporary skin damage that could occur, similar to a sunburn.

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