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UPMC-Developed Fiber Tracking Technology Being Called Life-Changing For Cancer Patients

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Thanks to cutting edge technology developed at Pitt and UPMC, patients from around the world are now coming to Pittsburgh for life-saving brain surgery and treatments.

The work being done is being called life-changing.

Jim Polacheck knew something was wrong.

"All of a sudden, I started getting flashing lights in front of my, especially, my right eye," said Jim, a cancer survivor.

His cognitive skills were slipping, and he was losing his vision.

"I knew it was a very serious problem," Jim said.

It was brain cancer.

"It rocks your world, but we said whatever we have to do we will do it," said Terri Polacheck, Jim's wife.

Diagnosed with a glioblastoma on a Tuesday, Jim went into surgery two days later.

"This is the most aggressive brain tumor there is, most people who have it live 12-16 months," said Dr. Robert Friedlander, UPMC Chairman of Neurological Surgery.

Dr. Friedlander led the team that worked to save Jim's life.

"Half of his vision was gone at this point, and traditionally, I would have said he doesn't really have that function. I can't make it better; so I am going to go and take it all out," Dr. Friedlander said.

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But thanks to new technology developed at Pitt and UPMC, Dr. Friedlander was able to use high definition fiber tracking. He was able to see that Jim's tumor hadn't destroyed his vision fibers. In fact, they were just being pushed out of the way.

"This provides me with information when I go in to operate and open someone's head; I know exactly where critical functions in the brain are. I don't have to guess, I know," said Dr. Friedlander.

And in this case, he knew exactly where to cut.

"Just carefully go like this and preserve these fibers and that's exactly what we were able to do," Dr. Friedlander said.

Jim's vision was saved, and four years after surgery to remove that tumor, he and his wife are counting their blessings.

"It changes your life, but at the end of the day, you go with it, and at the end of the day, you realize how lucky you are," Terri said.

The Ladies Hospital Aid Society is holding its "Brain Gain Gala" to raise money for the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute and the UPMC Neurological Institute.

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