Rabu, 17 Maret 2010 | 15:20 WIB
KOMPAS.com – A method of destroying breast tumours by surrounding them with ice could offer hope of a safe non-surgical cure for the disease, research suggests. The technique called cryotherapy is already used to treat prostate cancer.
It involves inserting several needle-like ‘cryoprobes’ into the tumour and passing super-cold gas through them. The ice ball rapidly created around each site kills off the cancerous cells.
Freezing therapy has been tried before for breast cancer – but this is the first time a minimally invasive version, which requires no surgery, has been developed.
But last night cancer experts warned it may take many years for the technique to become common. Each year more than 45,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer and around 12,000 die from the disease.
The ‘gold standard’ treatment for breast cancer is surgery, which offers the best chance of a cure. But removal of one of more breasts, and even surgery to cut out malignant tissue, can have a profound psychological impact on patients.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy also have serious drawbacks in the form of complications and side effects. Some women with breast cancer refuse to have surgery or harsh therapies, despite the consequent risks.
That is why there is great interest in the possibility of using freezing therapy as a treatment. In the latest study, 13 women with breast cancer who received the therapy remained cancer-free up to five years later. Doctors saw no sign of the disease returning and noted no significant complications.
Lead researcher Dr Peter Littrup, from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, US, said: ‘Minimally-invasive cryotherapy opens the door for a potential new treatment for breast cancer and needs to be further tested.
‘When used for local control and/or potential cure of breast cancer, it provided safe and effective breast conservation with minimal discomfort for a group of women who refused invasive surgery or had a local recurrence and needed additional management.
‘This is the first reported study of successfully freezing breast cancer without having to undergo surgery afterward to prove that it was completely treated.’
Freezing therapy for breast cancer is not new, but has been slow to develop.
Generally the technique has involved an operation and been applied by surgeons. Only in the last few years have the cryoprobes become small enough to be inserted through a small nick in the skin without the need for surgery. During the procedure the physician is guided by ultrasound or CT (computerised tomography) X-ray scans.
The findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology in Tampa, Florida.
Previous cryotherapy studies had all used a single cryoprobe and suggested that breast tumours larger than 1.5 centimetres could not be adequately treated, said Dr Littrup.
This was surprising bearing in mind the way men with prostate cancer were treated with cryotherapy, he said. Prostate treatment used more than six probes to freeze the entire gland, which measures around five centimetres across.
‘We simply translated this concept to breast cancer in order to assure deadly temperatures well beyond all apparent tumour margins in order to generate successful use of cryotherapy in women,’ said Dr Littrup.
Dr Caitlin Palframan, from the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘Cryotherapy is an experimental technique which is being looked at as a potential alternative to surgery for treating breast cancer.
‘However, we are a long way away from knowing whether cryotherapy has potential as a treatment option. Where appropriate, surgery remains a gold standard treatment and surgical techniques continue to improve all the time.’