Campbell Laird loves every minute of family game night with wife Martha and their three children. Just three years ago, Laird, now 39, was running out of chances.
"I trembled a lot," Laird said.
Laird's tremors were caused by an aggressive form of brain cancer. Doctors recommended a high-tech laser surgery.
"It's a small incision, probably about the length of my fingernail, in the scalp," said Dr. Eric Leuthardt, a neurosurgeon at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "A small hole in the skull about the size of a pencil, and then this laser probe gets placed into the center of the tumor.”
The heat zaps cancer cells, but Leuthardt has also found an unusual benefit to the laser surgery. Researchers said the lasers break down the brain's natural barrier designed to keep toxins out.
"By breaking down the blood brain barrier, we now have a window to give new type of therapies that would otherwise not get there," Leuthardt said.
Researchers said the laser keeps the barrier open for four to six weeks after the surgery, allowing time for chemotherapy drugs to work.
For Laird, the treatment has restored his movement. Three years ago, he could barely hold a pencil. Now, he's sketching cartoons for his kids.
"I think this laser ablation thing is a really good option for people," Laird said.
"He's got no evidence at this time of a recurrence," detailed Leuthardt.
Researchers studied 14 patients with glioblastoma. The FDA approved the laser surgery in 2009, but researchers said this is the first time the laser has been shown to allow the drugs to penetrate the brain. Studies are ongoing to see if this will make a difference in patients' survival.