A unique way to treat breast cancer by freezing tumors is being done in Southern California and may eliminate the need for surgery, Dr. Bruce Hensel reported.
Pam Kalmus discovered she had breast cancer from a routine mammogram: “Disbelief... that it was happening to me,” she said.
Pam decided to take charge, choosing to enter a clinical trial where her breast tumor would be destroyed by cryoblation – freezing. Dr. Deanna Attai of the Center for Breast Care in Burbank explains: “The hope is maybe in some of these women at least if not the majority of them, we can potentially avoid the step of going to the operating room,” Dr. Attai said.
The procedure is done in the doctor's office. First the area is numbed, then a tiny incision is made in the skin, and a probe is inserted into the center of the tumor: “Through the center of the probe liquid nitrogen flows, and that's what cools the lesion down. It cools it down to -160 degrees Celsius.
“I was awake so we were discussing what was going on, and you're watching it on the monitor,” Pam said.
The entire procedure takes only 20 minutes. Dr Attai says the tumor is destroyed, and eventually absorbed naturally by the body.
The doctor believes one potential advantage of the method is that the body may form antibodies to prevent the cancer from coming back.
“We do have some preliminary data to suggest, that we're not only getting rid of the tumor, but we also might be helping the woman's own immune system, better defend against the recurrence of cancer down the line,” Dr. Attai said.
For the purposes of the clinical trial, Attai confirmed the results of the cryoblation through surgery. In Pam's case, it worked, as Dr. Attai showed her MRI images: “Here's your tumor before the therapy, so you can see how it's really lighting up because of the increased blood flow, and here it is after the cryoblation, where you can see there's no blood flow in the center of the lesion.”
“As a surgeon i think this trial is amazing, because if we get to the point where we actually don't have to take women with early stage breast cancer to the operating room and we can treat them in office, in a minimally invasive way/ that's an incredible advance,” Dr. Attai said.
“This is not the choice for every woman or every breast cancer. Right now it is being studied on stage 1 breast cancer; localized and has not spread. The clinical trial is looking for participants, but remember just for the purposes of the trial, they have to confirm the results of the cryoblation through surgery. If the trial proves successful, freezing may be all some women need. If you have breast cancer ask your doctor what's best for you,” Dr. Hensel said.
To learn more about the clinical trial:
Center for Breast Care