Bringing Light

Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A three-minute film about a tiny molecule that lights up brain tumors so neurosurgeons can better distinguish cancer from normal tissue has a chance to get its own moment in the spotlight as one of 20 finalists for the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Bringing Light,  which focuses on the “Tumor Paint” research led by no other than Bronco James Olson, M.D., Ph.D. (BS '84, Biomedical Sciences)  a clinical researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a pediatric oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, is available online for viewing and voting (directions and a link to the video can be found below). The filmmakers' goal is to receive at least 50,000 votes by the December 20 deadline.

The film is part of a filmmaker competition called “Short Films, Big Ideas” sponsored by Focus Forward Films. Out of 30 total entries, a jury will select five finalists to be screened at Sundance 2013. The grand-prize winner will receive $100,000.

Olson’s team developed Tumor Paint by re-engineering scorpion venom (chlorotoxin), which naturally targets brain cancer cells, by tagging it with a molecule that acts like a flashlight, causing brain tumors to “light up” during surgery so the margins can be seen more easily. The goal is to help surgeons remove as much cancer as possible while safely leaving normal brain tissue intact— ultimately saving lives while also reducing problems caused by surgical removal of normal tissue in critical areas.

Tumor Paint is not yet in human use but is being developed by Blaze Bioscience, a Seattle biotech founded by Olson and Heather Franklin, president and CEO.

The potential of Tumor Paint is not limited to brain tumors; it has been found in preclinical studies to light up prostate, colon, breast and other cancers. It is anticipated that human trials in cancer patients will begin next year.

Another potential use for Tumor Paint is early detection of various forms of skin cancer. Olson and colleagues have demonstrated that it can light up non-pigmented skin cancers, which are sometimes difficult to detect and pose a greater threat to the patient if they are not detected early.

To learn more about the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Dr. Olson, and his research please follow the link below:


Click here to view the film.  A 'Vote" button can be found on the top right corner of the video player.