Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Procedure Kills Liver Tumors Without Surgery; Cures Some, Extends Life For Others

09.09.2002


The week after Carlton Harris underwent a novel therapy at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center to destroy three cancerous liver tumors, he was back at the gym huffing, puffing, lifting and sweating. Not even a single stitch to show for his trouble, Harris wore only a small bandage to cover the three tiny holes -- the size of a snake-bite -- where wire probes entered his skin and literally burned away the cancerous tumors inside his liver.



So simple is the new procedure -- called radiofrequency ablation (RFA) -- that Harris says he will have it done as many times as necessary to maintain the good quality of life he now enjoys.

“I can’t say I’m cured, but I am enjoying my life a great deal,” said the 78-year-old, semi-retired physician from Greensboro, N.C. “I feel like as long as we catch the tumors as they arise, then I’ll have years of good living to come.”


The procedure is a last resort for patients who, like Harris, cannot endure surgery but require immediate removal of their potentially fatal tumors. For some, it is a cure; for others it extends the length and quality of life.

While surgery is still the accepted method for removing liver tumors, doctors say RFA is proving to be a successful alternative because it can be done quickly, with little pain and minimal recovery time, and as often as needed. In one extreme case, the patient had the procedure nine different times to destroy a total of 26 tumors.

Indeed, Harris has already undergone the procedure three times in two years. The treatment takes only an hour or two to perform in the radiology clinic, followed by four to six hours of resting in a recovery room. Then, Harris drives back home where he putters in the garden and kitchen in between his volunteer work at Duke and his position as medical director at the Wellspring retirement community in Greensboro.

Compare this to the months of painstaking recovery that he endured after two liver surgeries, and Harris has nothing but praise for the new procedure and the Duke physician who performs it.

“Radiofrequency ablation was so much better for me than surgery,” said Harris, who suffered from two collapsed lungs and ventricular fibrillation after his second major surgery. “The difference between recoveries is like night and day.”

Called radiofrequency ablation because it uses radio wave energy to heat the tumor and “ablate,” or destroy it, the procedure has been used for nearly a decade to treat certain irregular heartbeats. Now, a handful of radiologists in North Carolina and nationwide are using RFA to treat primary tumors and metastases in the liver, kidneys, lungs and bones.

Harris was an ideal candidate for RFA because he was no longer eligible for surgery. During two previous operations, doctors had removed the entire left lobe of his liver along with the tumors. He simply didn’t have enough liver tissue left for doctors to safely remove his new tumors and leave him with adequate liver function.

As an alternative, Harris’ oncologist referred him to Rendon Nelson, M.D., a Duke radiologist who has performed more than 100 radiofrequency ablations on solid organs since May 1999. Within days, Harris was lying on a table as two separate scanners (computed tomography and ultrasound) were used to guide a small probe through a quarter-inch incision in his skin and directly to the site of the tumors. Once securely in place, the probe was hooked to an electronic device that delivered radiofrequency energy from the tip of several slender needles protruding from the probe. Multiple needle passes are often used for heating larger tumors, and different types of probes are selected depending on the type of thermal zone required to treat the tumor.

“The tissue that’s being treated literally bubbles because it is heated to boiling temperature -- 100 degrees Celsius,” said Nelson. “Since heat is concentrated around the tip of the probe, we can generally limit tissue destruction to the region of the tumor without damaging the surrounding tissue.”

After the heating session, the needles are slowly withdrawn at a slightly lower temperature in order to cauterize the wound and minimize bleeding. All the patient needs is a small bandage on the skin and a half-day of rest before leaving the hospital. Side effects tend to be minimal but include pain, malaise, fever, nausea and the potential for infection, although all patients receive a course of antibiotics to decrease the risk.

“The procedure is better tolerated than surgery, there is no large abdominal wound to heal, and we can do the procedure as often as necessary,” said Nelson. “And the survival rate may end up being the same as with surgery, although it is too soon to tell yet.”

How well a patient fares after RFA or surgery depends on many factors, Nelson said. It matters where the primary cancer originated and what type of cancer it is, where in the body the cancer has “metastasized” or spread, how well the cancer responds to chemotherapy, and how aggressive the tumors are, to name a few factors.

Both techniques work best if the tumors are isolated to the liver. Still, RFA can be used in patients whose cancers have spread elsewhere in the body, especially if the tumors are slow growing, said Nelson.

Nancy Emerson is just such a patient. Having lived with breast cancer for 20 years, Emerson’s most recent metastasis appeared in her liver. Although her tumors will surely recur, they tend to be slow growing and not aggressive. This makes Emerson a suitable candidate for RFA, said Nelson.

“For Nancy, like many others, radiofrequency ablation is palliative -- it’s meant to control symptoms, reduce pain, or simply decrease the bulk of tumors that secrete noxious hormones, rather than to eradicate all of the cancer,” said Nelson.

Indeed, Emerson has a slow-growing malignancy in her bones, but she sees no reason to tolerate new tumors elsewhere if they can be destroyed. “I approach it from a common-sense perspective,” she said. “If they’re not there, they can’t grow larger.”

Adds Harris’ daughter, Ross, “RFA gives you another way to have hope, which is what we’re all looking for in this fight against cancer.”

Rebecca Levine | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mc.duke.edu/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>