An Evaluation of the Tolerability and Feasibility of Combining 5-Amino-Levulinic Acid (5-ALA) with BCNU Wafers in the Surgical Management of Primary Glioblastoma.


Background Glioblastoma (GBM) is the commonest primary malignant brain tumour in adults and effective treatment options are limited. Combining local chemotherapy with enhanced surgical resection using 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) could improve outcomes. Here we assess the safety and feasibility of combining BCNU wafers with 5-ALA-guided surgery. Methods We conducted a multicentre feasibility study of 5-ALA with BCNU wafers followed by standard-of-care chemoradiotherapy (chemoRT) in patients with suspected GBM. Patients judged suitable for radical resection were administered 5-ALA pre-operatively and BCNU wafers at the end resection. Post-operative treatment continued as per routine clinical practice. The primary objective was to establish if combining 5-ALA and BCNU wafers is safe without compromising patients from receiving standard chemoRT. Results Seventy-two patients were recruited, sixty-four (88.9%) received BCNU wafer implants, and fifty-nine (81.9%) patients remained eligible following formal histological diagnosis. Seven (11.9%) eligible patients suffered surgical complications but only two (3.4%) were not able to begin chemoRT, four (6.8%) additional patients did not begin chemoRT within 6 weeks of surgery due to surgical complications. Eleven (18.6%) patients did not begin chemoRT for other reasons (other toxicity (n = 3), death (n = 3), lost to follow-up/withdrew (n = 3), clinical decision (n = 1), poor performance status (n = 1)). Median progression-free survival was 8.7 months (95% CI: 6.4-9.8) and median overall survival was 14.7 months (95% CI: 11.7-16.8). Conclusions Combining BCNU wafers with 5-ALA-guided surgery in newly diagnosed GBM patients is both feasible and tolerable in terms of surgical morbidity and overall toxicity. Any potential therapeutic benefit for the sequential use of 5-ALA and BCNU with chemoRT requires further investigation with improved local delivery technologies.