A new study in mice has shown that freezing cancer kills it in its place and also generates an immune response that helps stop the cancer's spread.
A research team, led by Michael Sabel, associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School, looked at two different cryoablation techniques, which both involve applying a cold probe to a tumor to freeze it. The study was done in mice with breast cancer.
One method involves freezing the tumor rapidly, in about 30 seconds; the other freezes the tumor slowly, taking a few minutes. Results from the cryoablation were compared to results from mice whose tumors were removed with surgery.
Both cryoablation techniques successfully killed the breast tumor. The mice treated with the rapid freeze had fewer tumors that spread to the lungs and improved survival compared to mice treated with surgery alone or mice treated with the slower freezing technique.
The study showed that the benefit from the rapid freezing is likely due to changes in the immune system that help to kill the tumor. Freezing with the slower technique appeared to make the immune system not as able to kill the tumor.
Based on these results from mice, researchers are now conducting a clinical trial using cryoablation in patients with breast cancer. The study appears online in Annals of Surgical Oncology.