SUNDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- A method designed to
target, freeze and destroy a tumor's cellular function seems
effective in combating lung tumors, a small ongoing study
At least in the short-run -- meaning three months after the
procedure -- the intervention known as "cryoablation" appeared to
kill all targeted tumors that had spread to the lung from
elsewhere, preliminary results suggest.
However, some patients developed new tumors in that time period,
the researchers noted.
The study authors cautioned that while the initial findings are
encouraging, the treatment should not be seen as a cure for this
type of metastatic (spreading) lung disease. Rather, they said that
for certain patients who may not be eligible for more standard
surgical approaches, the therapy has potential as an alternative
means for offering an improved quality of life for a longer period
"'Promising' is the perfect way to describe our findings," said study lead author Dr. David Woodrum, an interventional radiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "But whether or not this minimally invasive approach would ultimately become a primary method of treatment in the future will depend on the long-term results of this trial, which is still under way. At this point I would say that cryoablation has the most applicability as a kind of last-ditch treatment for patients who are not good surgical candidates for a variety of reasons."
Woodrum and his colleagues are scheduled to discuss their
findings Sunday in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the Society
of Interventional Radiology. Funding for their work was provided by
Galil Medical, a medical device manufacturer based in Arden Hills,
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the
conclusions should be considered preliminary until published in a
The U.S. National Cancer Institute points out that while
cryoablation (also known as cryosurgery) is a well-known practice,
researchers are still in the process of assessing its long-term
The procedure is performed by an interventional radiologist on
patients coping with metastasized lung tumors, the researchers
noted. Using CT-imaging equipment, the physician inserts a small
needle-like instrument directly into the tumor to deliver the
freezing power (at temperatures as low as minus 100 degrees
Celsius) of liquid nitrogen to cancer cells, while sparing healthy
To date, the team behind the new study has used the procedure to
tackle a total of 36 tumors in 22 American and French patients --13
men and nine women -- whose average age was 60. Fifteen patients
had just one tumor, while the rest had two or more. None of the
patients was deemed eligible for standard surgical
The targeted tumors were less than 3.5 centimeters (about 1.4
inches), which Woodrum described as being "small to medium in
The procedure was performed under either general anesthesia or
conscious sedation, and lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to nearly
three hours. Typically, patients were able to return home the
The result: Among the 15 patients seen roughly three months
post-procedure, tumor control was found to be 100 percent, although
six patients were found to have developed new lung tumors in the
Among five patients seen six months after the procedure, tumor
control continued to be 100 percent.
The authors noted that side effects were minimal, typically
involving air or fluid around the lungs after the procedure, and in
all cases were resolved quickly.
The team concluded that cryoablation appears to be both safe and
effective, at least in the short-term. But they acknowledged that
more research needs to be done to track the treatment's impact over
the long haul.
"It would be overreaching to say that we're curing cancer with this," Woodrum said. "But this is one of many therapy options that is looking to turn cancer into a chronic fight, and to give patients for whom the choices are limited a chance at a good quality of life with minimal treatment complications."
For his part, Dr. David Carbone, a professor and director of the
James Thoracic Center at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical
Center, said that the findings regarding cryoablation are "not
incredibly novel," given that the procedure has been around for
"And I would say that there are multiple different technologies for doing this kind of very localized approach," he added. He mentioned stereotactic radiosurgery -- which targets the tumor with high-power X-rays -- as another way to go.
"While I've done cryoablation myself in the past, it's not what I typically do," Carbone noted. "Stereotactic is noninvasive and doesn't require general anesthesia, so that's what I'd tend to do, although certainly what approach is ideal will depend on a particular patient's situation and symptoms. But there's no situation in which cryoablation would be the only theoretical option."
For more about cryoablation, visit the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.
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