Transsphenoidal Extent of Resection Study (TRANSSPHER)
The treatment of choice for most patients with symptomatic nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas is transsphenoidal surgery to improve vision by decompression of the optic chiasm, to prevent the development of endocrine dysfunction, and to treat neurological symptoms such as headache or cranial neuropathies caused by the tumor. The most widely accepted surgical technique is microscopic transsphenoidal surgery, in which an operating microscope is used by the surgeon to provide surgical visualization and a nasal speculum is used to maintain the operative corridor. [1-4] Recently, fully endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery, in which surgical visualization is achieved using an endoscope, has been adopted by many pituitary surgeons because the technique offers superior panoramic and angled visualization of the surgical target and may permit greater tumor resection. [5-10] There is a vigorous debate in the neurosurgical community about the relative merits of the microscopic and endoscopic techniques. Proponents of the endoscopic technique argue that the superior visualization permits more aggressive tumor resection and better preservation of the normal pituitary gland. Proponents of the microscopic technique argue that it permits shorter operative times, results in similar surgical outcomes, and has a lower complication rate.
Despite the adoption of fully endoscopic surgery by many surgeons, no prospective studies have compared the extent of tumor resection (EOR) between microscopic and endoscopic approaches. Numerous retrospective studies have established the efficacy of each approach, but only a few studies present comparative data.[11-13] Recently, McLaughlin et al. noted that the addition of endoscopy to microscopic pituitary surgery enhances tumor removal, particularly in patients with tumors greater than 20 mm in diameter.  This study raises the intriguing possibility that certain subgroups of patients (e.g. patients with larger tumors) may benefit from endoscopic surgery. In patients with smaller tumors with no cavernous sinus invasion, others have shown that the techniques achieve similar EOR.  That endoscopy may permit more complete tumor resections is a testable hypothesis.
The Barrow 5-ALA Intraoperative Confocal (BALANCE) Study
This study will look at how well 5-ALA, an amino acid compound, can identify cancer cells during surgery and improve tumor removal in patients with high- and low-grade gliomas. Select patients take an oral dose of either 5-ALA or ascorbic acid a few hours before surgery. During the procedure surgeons use a special microscope that sends out blue light onto the tumor tissue. When the light hits the tumor, the 5-ALA reflects the light and the tumor cells glow in the dark. This allows the surgeon to better pinpoint tumor margins.