Freezing Tumors May Treat Low-Risk Breast Cancers

Alan mozes

HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY, May 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) – A one-of-a-kind study suggests that slow-growing breast cancers can be treated with a highly targeted tumor freezing technique, eliminating the need for invasive surgery.

Tests to date suggest that the technique is effective in women over 60 who have been diagnosed with relatively low risk breast cancer.

“Cryoablation is a minimally invasive solution that destroys breast tumors safely, quickly and painlessly, without surgery,” said study author Dr Richard Fine, breast surgeon at West Cancer Center & Research Institute in Germantown, Tennessee.

“The procedure exposes diseased tissue to extreme cold [cryo] destroy [ablate] “he added.” It is performed in the office while the patient is awake. “

The new study – which involved nearly 200 women – found that when cryoablation was performed on women with low-grade / low-risk breast cancer, almost all patients remained cancer-free three years later.

“The therapy is already well established for the treatment of bone, kidney, prostate and other cancers,” noted Fine.


The average age of the patients in the study was 75 years old, and all were diagnosed with “invasive ductal carcinoma” breast cancer. The tumors were relatively small, measuring no more than 1.5 cm. All patients had “hormonal positive” tumors, ie ER +, PR + and / or HER2- tumors.

“In general, tumors that are ER + and / or PR + grow slightly slower and have a slightly better prognosis than tumors that are hormone receptor negative,” Fine said.

All of the patients in the study underwent cryoablation, which involved the direct insertion of a probe through the skin and into the tumor site, under localized anesthesia. In turn, liquid nitrogen was applied to freeze the targeted tumors from the inside out. The treatment lasted between 20 and 40 minutes, eventually turning the tumors into ice balls.

The procedure removed the need for follow-up surgery, the researchers reported, although nearly 15% of the women also underwent radiation therapy, while about 3/4 were subsequently treated with endocrine therapy. One patient underwent chemotherapy.

Patients were checked twice a year, up to five years after treatment. The result: At an average follow-up of nearly three years after treatment, only 2% (four patients) had seen their cancer come back. No serious side effects were reported and almost all patients and treating physicians reported being satisfied with the treatment (95% and 98%, respectively).


“For benign and cancerous tumors, the advantages over traditional surgery include in-office procedures, [that were] faster, [entailed] almost immediate recovery, improved cosmetic results, greater patient comfort, less procedural risk and lower cost, ”said Fine.

Unlike a conventional lumpectomy or mastectomy, he added, cryoablation preserves breast volume and minimizes the risk of infection. And the process generally produces “excellent cosmetic results without scarring,” while allowing patients to quickly return to normal activity.

Fine noted that the European Union approved cryoablation for breast cancer in 2010, with the procedure also approved for use in Australia, South Africa, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong.

In the United States, “the treatment is in experimental use,” said Dr Shawna Willey, head of breast cancer research at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia.

“If this continues with similar success, the data will be submitted to the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to gain the very first approval for the use of a specific cryoablation device in the treatment of breast cancer for the tumor and patient parameters studied, ”added Willey.


Although not part of the study team, she noted that Fine’s trial “is the largest of its kind, and could pave the way for cryoablation being much more widely available as an option. treatment for older women with low-risk breast cancer, as it continues to be investigated in larger patient populations. “

Still, Willey warned that cryoablation has only been tested among carefully selected groups of breast cancer patients. Its effectiveness, she stressed, “is not supported by extensive data with long-term follow-up, or by data on a wide range of tumor types in women of all age groups.” .

Fine and his colleagues presented their results this week at a virtual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. Such research is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

There is more information on cryoablation and cancer at the Mayo Clinic.

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