Tumor Paint: Changing the way surgeons fight cancer

(CNN) — The audience at Pop! Tech’s annual conference rose to its feet as Dr. Jim Olson wrapped up his talk on Tumor Paint.

“In this world where stadiums are named after rich corporations, where buildings are named after wealthy donors, I wanted to name the most exciting science that I’ve ever participated in after her,” he said, referring to Violet, a patient of his who donated her brain to science shortly before dying.

It’s unclear if the audience’s standing ovation last month was aimed more at Olson’s innovations or his passion. Perhaps it was for the children he has treated — the ones whose faces flashed across the screen as he spoke about losing the fight against cancer. Or maybe their applause was for those kids’ parents, who have raised $9 million to fund Olson’s research.

They believe in him. It’s hard not to after listening to the unassuming way he plans to change medicine.

A pediatric neuro-oncologist, Olson says he has spent too many years explaining why a surgeon may not remove all of a patient’s cancer or, instead, accidentally take part of a child’s healthy brain.

That’s why he and his team created Tumor Paint, a product designed to illuminate cancer cells in the body, helping surgeons distinguish them from healthy tissue.

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