Radiofrequency ablation shows promise as safe, effective way to destroy lung tumors

Radiofrequency ablation — using heat to treat cancers – offers some lung cancer patients an alternative to extensive surgery, additional chemotherapy or radiation therapy, a new study shows.

Researchers at the Oncology Institute in Bari, Italy, treated 40 lung nodules found in 18 patients. Fourteen patients had lung metastases and four patients had non-small cell lung cancer that could not be surgically removed. All of the patients had initially undergone chemotherapy for their disease.

Ninety seven percent of the lesions were destroyed by ultrasound guided or CT guided radiofrequency ablation, says Cosmo Gadaleta, MD, principal investigator in the study. One patient with non-small cell lung cancer had evidence of residual disease one month after radiofrequency ablation; that patient was successfully retreated, he says. The patients have been followed for between 2 and 12 months.

Most complications from the treatment were short lasting and easily manageable, adds Dr. Gadaleta. Complications included air and fluid buildup in the lining of the lung, fever, and slight pain. Patients were released from the hospital about a week after treatment, a shorter stay than if they would have undergone surgery, he adds.

“This study shows promise, but we suggest larger studies to better identify patients who could benefit from this therapy and to better assess the role of radiofrequency ablation in the treatment of lung tumors,” Dr. Gadaleta says.

Dr. Gadaleta worked with Vittorio Mattioli, MD and Annamaria Catino, MD on the study. It will be presented May 8 during the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in San Diego.

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