A minimally invasive cancer treatment, radio frequency ablation (RFA), has been found effective in reducing the level of pain experienced by cancer patients with bone (osseous) metastases.
It would also limit the need for strong narcotic pain management. Current pain treatments are not effective for all of these patients. Many require increasing doses of narcotics for pain management.
RFA is an image-guided technology that uses heat to kill, or ablate, treat liver, kidney and lung cancer tumours.
The American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN) study showed that RFA is safe and effective pain management tool for patients with bone metastases.
"It is clear that improved palliative treatments must be identified to address the needs of these great many patients," said Dr Damian Dupuy, principal investigator of the study, director of ablation services at Rhode Island Hospital, and professor of diagnostic imaging at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
"RFA is widely available, covered by most insurance, can be performed in a single outpatient session and often allows patients enhanced interaction with loved ones by reducing use of strong narcotics which can leave them in a medicated state.
"Also, unlike many other cancer pain management treatments, RFA can be repeated and maintain similar results," Dupuy added.
The researchers studied 55 patients who had a single painful bone metastasis. Each received computed tomography (CT) guided RFA of the tumor.
Patients evaluated their pain prior to treatment, then daily for two weeks following the procedure, and again at one month and three months after RFA. The study results showed statistically significant pain reduction at the one and three-month follow-ups.
"We know that RFA is a highly effective cancer treatment when surgery is not an option. RFA offers potential advantages over other methods in that cell death is immediate, lesion size can be accurately controlled, lesion temperature can be monitored, and it can be performed under local anesthesia and conscious sedation in the outpatient setting," said Dupuy.
"This is a significant step forward in the pain management of these patients," Dupuy added.
The study is published online in the journal Cancer.