New Treatment May Zap Early Breast Cancers
Experimental Breast Cancer Treatment May Offer Alternative to Surgery
March 30, 2004 -- A new treatment that uses electricity to
destroy small tumors in the breast may soon offer an alternative to surgery for
women with breast cancer.
A small study of radiofrequency (RF) ablation in treating early
breast cancers shows the minimally invasive procedure is feasible and safe. But
researchers say more study is needed before the experimental technique can
replace the currently accepted therapy of surgery followed by radiation
"This is an experimental study, and additional long-term
trials will be needed before RF ablation becomes available as an alternative to
surgery in the treatment for early breast cancer," says researcher Bruno
Fornage, MD, a professor of radiology and surgical oncology at the University
of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, in a news release.
Zapping Breast Cancer
The study, published in the April issue of Radiology,
looked at the safety and effectiveness of RF ablation in the treatment of small
breast cancers that were less than 2 centimeters in diameter.
RF ablation involves using ultrasound imaging to guide a
needle/electrode that delivers heat generated by an electrical current to the
center of a tumor. In the study, a temperature of about 200°F was applied to
the tumor for 15 minutes to destroy the cancerous tissue.
Researchers performed the procedure on 21 breast cancer lesions
in 20 women immediately before they underwent lumpectomy (surgical removal of
the tumor and surrounding tissue) or mastectomy (removal of the entire
After the procedure and subsequent surgery was completed, a
pathologist evaluated the tissue samples to determine if the RF ablation
treatment had destroyed all the cancerous cells.
The study showed that the tumor seen on ultrasound was
completely destroyed in all 21 cases without any adverse effects, such as burns
to the skin or chest wall.
But a residual microscopic cancer that did not show up on
imaging, even retrospectively, was found in the surrounding breast tissue in
one of two women who had received chemotherapy prior to the procedure.
Since the RF ablation procedure uses ultrasound imaging to
guide where therapy is given, researchers say the target tumor must be clearly
visible with ultrasound imaging and have well-defined borders in order to
reduce the risk of leaving behind any cancerous cells.