Doctors have been able to freeze tumors in a small number of breast cancer patients, effectively destroying them to stop the disease’s growth and spread.
A team of Detroit researchers that reported progress in refining the technique – called “percutaneous cryoablation” – said it may offer doctors a new weapon in the arsenal of treatments for patients with advanced breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
"If you envision cancer treatment as a three-legged stool: you have radiation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy,” said Dr. Peter J. Littrup, director of radiology research at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. “We are introducing the fourth leg on the stool of cancer care: tumor [freezing]."
In a presentation at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 37th Annual Scientific Meeting in San Francisco this week, Littrup and colleagues reported the results of a small study involving breast cancer patients whose disease had spread to other areas of the body.
The new freezing procedure was used to destroy secondary tumors in the liver, lung and kidney.
“There were no serious complications and all procedures were considered successful. All individual tumors remaining in the body were found and the local cancer did not recur,” the researchers concluded
"This therapy provides a minimal rate of cancer recurrence and no major complications, making these ice balls ideal for targeting metastatic tumors that are limited in number and location," said Littrup.
He said he hopes the Detroit research will be “a stepping stone for a bigger study” involving more patients.
“If we can get more data that supports percutaneous cryoablation for metastatic breast cancer, it could be a huge finding,” he added.
Researchers noted breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, causing 1 million new cases and killing 370,000 people worldwide each year.