Jim Olson, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was reviewing with his colleagues the case of a 17-year-old girl several years ago who had just undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor. An MRI scan revealed a thumb-size piece of tumor left behind. In the operating room, the tumor tissue had looked just like healthy brain tissue. During the review meeting, the hospitals’ chief of neurosurgery turned to Olson and said: “Jim, you have to come up with a way to light these cells up.”
So Olson and a neurosurgical resident started searching for a way to highlight cancer cells in the operating room.