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Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital Makes Breakthrough in Treating Brain Tumors

Giulia Vasconcelos

Neurosurgeons at Upstate’s Golisano Children’s Hospital say they’re the first in the world to use a minimally invasive laser therapy to treat a rare disease that causes tumors to grow on the brain. 

Doctor Zulma Tovar-Spinoza says the M-R-I technology uses lasers to eradicate the non-cancerous tumors, which cause seizures.  She says the difference between open surgery and the new procedure is night and day...

Three-year-old Arianna Failla was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis when she was just three months old, and has been through three laser procedures.   She's one of 13 patients to have the procedure and one of only 3 with tuberous sclerosis.  Her mother Jennifer says she’s already seeing signficiant progress on many fronts...

Jennifer Failla describes how tuberous sclerosis has affected her daughter Arianna, and how the laser technology has improved her condition.

Credit Giulia Vasconcelos / WAER News
Dr. Zulma Tovar-Spinoza, 3-year-old Arianna Failla, and her mother, Jennifer.

Jennifer Failla says they notice Arianna doing something different every day, including improved walking and balance.   She realizes Arianna was a "guinea pig," and that others are waiting to hear their story and,  hopes it helps others who might have the rare genetic disease.   Dr. Tovar-Spinoza says only 5 to 6 pediatric centers in the world use this technology in children, and Upstate had its first experience last year.  She says it's approved by the FDA, is not experimental, and is covered by insurance.    Dr. Tovar Spinoza admits it's too early to tell what will happen 5 years down the road with these patients, but she says what matters is they're changing lives for the better. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at