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‘Pink drink’ which helps surgeons spot brain tumours is rolled out across NHS

Dame Tessa Jowell had glioblastoma, the most common cancerous brain tumour in adults (PA).
Dame Tessa Jowell had glioblastoma, the most common cancerous brain tumour in adults (PA).

A special “pink drink” that enables surgeons to precisely target brain tumours has been rolled out across the NHS and could benefit 2,000 patients a year.

The drink, known as 5-ALA, uses fluorescent dye and ultraviolet light to make cancerous cells glow under UV light.

This enables surgeons to more precisely target brain tumour tissue during surgery to remove it, and helps to spare healthy brain cells.

Research suggests that the whole tumour can be successfully removed in 70.5% of cases where 5-ALA is used, up from around 30% without it.

The treatment has been available in some NHS hospitals but will now be available in every neurological centre in England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The announcement comes a year after the death of Baroness Tessa Jowell from brain cancer.

The Labour MP was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, the most common cancerous brain tumour in adults, in May 2017, and went on to campaign for better funding and treatments for the disease.

Mr Hancock said: “Tessa Jowell fought passionately and courageously for more recognition of rare brain cancers before she tragically passed away last year.

“One year on, the effects of her tireless campaigning can already been seen.

“I am proud to announce we have now rolled out this groundbreaking treatment aid across the country, transforming care for 2,000 patients every year – a fitting testament to Tessa’s memory.

“A cancer diagnosis is life-changing, but I want every single patient to feel reassured that they have access to the best and fastest care in our wonderful NHS.”

Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy and public affairs, said:  “Brain tumours remain a huge challenge, with survival barely improving over the last 30 years, and making 5-ALA available across the NHS is one of Dame Tessa Jowell’s many legacies.”