Cryoablation, also known as cryotherapy, is an FDA-approved process of using extreme cold to damage and destroy diseased tissue, and has been adapted to several clinical applications.
This technique has been applied in prostate cancer, cancer of the kidneys, and in the treatment of non-cancerous growths and cardiac conditions.
Cryoablation may be used to as a treatment when cancers are otherwise considered inoperable and has been used in cases to relieve pain in bone metastasis, according to the Mayo Clinic.
During the treatment, cryoprobes – hollow, wand-like 17-gauge cryosurgical instruments which resemble a biopsy needle – are inserted percutaneously into the skin or placed adjacent to tissue which has been determined to be diseased. The probes are implanted without the need of an incision.
Pressurized thermally conductive gas, such as argon, is injected to freeze the offending tissue and the process lasts for about 10 minutes.
Thermal sensors are used to confirm the whole of the tumor has been frozen without destroying a significant number of healthy cells within the immediate vicinity.
Unlike cryopreservation, which is a technique of preserving fragile biological samples for prolonged cold storage, the targeted cancer cells are quickly frozen with the intent of rupturing the supporting structures of the cancer cell walls.
As the gas is introduced, ice forms within the cells. Icy crystallization punctures through and tears open the barriers of the cell walls. After, the tissue is permitted to thaw and the process of freeze-thaw can be repeated.
Cryosurgical ablation provides a benefit to the patient as it is minimally invasive and less painful than traditional methods.
Results of the lung cancer cryoablation trial will be presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 38th Annual Scientific Meeting in New Orleans.
The data confirms freezing can safety kill cancerous tumors which have metastasized to the lungs and prolong the lives of afflicted patients who otherwise have limited options.
Researchers led by Dr. David Woodrum, PhD – an interventional radiologist, an assistant professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and lead author of study, “Safety and Efficacy of Cryoablation for Metastatic Lung Tumors (ECLIPSE),” – evaluated the safety and efficacy of cryoablation in patients. Subjects used were patients with pulmonary metastatic disease, and had the presence of metastatic lung cancer – spread to the lungs from another primary cancer elsewhere in the body.
In the study, 22 subjects with a total of 36 tumors were treated with 27 cryoablation sessions by an interventional radiologist. The three month follow-up determined cryoablation was 100 percent effective in killing the tumors. A six-month follow-up revealed 5 of the 22 patients’ tumors were still dead.
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