Freezing Technique May Stop Breast Cancer

FRIDAY March 5, 2010 -- Freezing breast tumors helped stop the spread of the cancer in mice, a new study has found.

Researchers tested two cryoablation (freezing) techniques in mice with breast cancer. Both involve applying a cold probe to the tumor, but one method involves rapid freezing (about 30 seconds) of the tumor, while the other takes a few minutes. The mice that received cryoablation were compared to mice in which breast tumors were removed with surgery.

Both cryoablation methods killed breast tumors. Mice treated with the rapid cryoablation had fewer tumors spread to the lungs and had better survival than mice treated with the slower freezing technique or those treated with surgery alone, according to the researchers from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The better results associated with rapid cryoablation may result from changes in the immune system that help kill tumors. The slower freezing method didn't have the same effect on the immune system, the study authors found.

The study findings are published online in the journal Annals of Surgical Oncology.

The researchers are currently conducting a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of rapid cryoablation in breast cancer patients.

"Cryoablation has strong potential as a treatment for breast cancer," study lead author Dr. Michael Sabel, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a news release. "Not only does it appear effective in treating the primary tumor with little cosmetic concerns, but it also may stimulate an immune response capable of eradicating any cells that have traveled throughout the body, reducing both local and distant recurrence, similar to giving a breast cancer vaccine," he explained.

"What we learned in this study is that all cryoablation is not equal," Sabel said. "The technique used to freeze the tissue can have a significant impact on how the immune system responds. The system we use today appears to be ideal for both destroying the tumor within the breast and generating an anti-cancer immune response."

Currently, cryoablation is used routinely to treat prostate cancer, kidney cancer and a number of cancers that have spread to the liver and bones.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cryoablation as a cancer treatment.

Posted: March 2010


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