Health In Focus
  • Thermal ablation is a safe and effective treatment for early-stage lung cancer and could replace stereotactic radiation
  • Patients who are old and with certain complications cannot undergo surgery can opt for thermal ablation
  • Replacing radiation for these patients with thermal ablation could be less toxic and cost-effective

Early-stage lung cancer has an alternate form of therapy available now for patients who cannot undergo surgery because of age or health status. The study published in the journal Radiology shows that thermal ablation can now be used as a cancer treatment, and is safer and as effective as stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT), in which tumor cells are destroyed with targeted doses of radiation.

Surgery is the treatment of choice for early-stage disease in the case of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common of the lung cancers and the leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. However, surgery is not an option for many older patients and those with other conditions due to a higher risk of complications. Such patients have to opt for radiation or other methods.
Thermal Ablation as a First Step in Treating Early-stage Lung Cancer

In thermal ablation, a probe is inserted directly into the tumor under precise imaging guidance. The tumor is destroyed by applying extreme heat, extreme cold or radio waves. It delivers highly accurate localized treatment only to cancer cells minimizing the effects to surrounding tissue and keeping the toxicity low.
Study The study was conducted by study's senior author Hyun S. "Kevin" Kim, M.D., head of the Interventional Oncology Program from Yale Cancer Center and Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., along with a multidisciplinary team of thoracic oncology investigators.

In order to compare thermal ablation and SRT for the treatment of early-stage NSCLC, they studied around 29,000 patients from the 2004-2013 National Cancer Databases among whom more than 1,100 had undergone thermal ablation. The researchers compared outcomes over several years.
  • The survival rates of both treatment methods were comparable with the thermal ablation group having a two-year survival rate that was slightly more than 65 percent, compared with 64.5 percent for the SRT group
  • The five-year survival rates for the thermal ablation group were just below 25 percent compared with slightly more than 26 percent for the SRT group
  • Outcomes for patients for early lung cancer from both the groups were quite similar
"This is a real value to our patients, especially as tissue sampling becomes more and more important in personalized, precision cancer treatments," Dr. Kim said.

Also, compared to SRT, thermal ablation is -
  • Safer as the waves are delivered directly to cancer cells compared to radiation which sometimes harms healthy tissue surrounding the tumor and carries a risk of both short-term and long-term toxicities.
  • Mostly a one-time treatment compared to SRT that requires several visits
  • Cost-effective as one-time treatment has lower direct costs for patients and insurance providers
Moreover, in thermal ablation, the physicians can collect biopsy samples during the procedure as they have direct access to the tumor itself.

Future research is planned on studying thermal ablation's potential role in the total care of lung cancer patients like using it along with immunotherapy where drugs or substances made by the body are used to attack cancer cells.

Reference :
  1. Thermal Ablation Effectively Treats Early-stage Lung Cancer
  2. (

Source: Medindia

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