Researchers are investigating a new non-invasive method, more patient- Researchers Testing Non-Invasive Technique to Kill Breast Cancer Tumors (dateline November 10, 2000) | Breast Health News | Imaginis - The Women's Health & Wellness Resource Network

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Researchers Testing Non-Invasive Technique to Kill Breast Cancer Tumors (dateline November 10, 2000)

Researchers are investigating a new non-invasive method, more patient-friendly method of treating breast cancer. The procedure, which uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to locate the tumor and high energy sound waves to "cook" the tumor to death with heat, is being tested in a clinical trial at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. If the treatment is successful, it may one day eliminate the need for breast cancer surgery for many women.

To perform non-invasive tumor ablation, physicians use magnetic resonance imaging to locate the patient’s cancerous breast tumor. Then, a series of short pulses of sound waves are applied to heat the tumor. Tissues surrounding the tumor are unaffected. This process is called tumor ablation.

"The ultrasound waves treat the tumor by raising the temperature of the cancerous tissue to more than 60 degrees Celsius," (140 degrees Fahrenheit) said John Hazle, PhD, a physicist at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in an M.D. Anderson Cancer Center news release. "At that point, the tumor tissue dies because the cells are coagulated and there is no blood flow to the tumor. The tumor is literally cooked," said Dr. Hazle.

After the procedure is complete, MRI images of the breast are taken to make sure that the tumor ablation was successful. If there are signs that cancer cells remain, the procedure is repeated. Patients are given light sedation before the procedure and are able to communicate with the physician during treatment.

The M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is currently testing the effectiveness of the procedure in a clinical trial. Approximately two weeks after the tumor ablation, the participants will also undergo breast cancer surgery (usually a lumpectomy) to make sure the tumor has been killed and that the tissue surrounding the tumor is cancer-free. Patients may also undergo other therapies, such as radiation or chemotherapy, as determined by their physician.

Dr. Hazle and Marc Fenstermacher, MD of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have already tried the procedure on two patients, and the initial results show that the treatment is effective. In one of the patients, there were signs of the residual tumor when the physicians analyzed the tissue after lumpectomy. However, Dr. Fenstermacher says that they believe that area was not treated with the procedure. The second patient showed no signs of remaining cancer.

According to Dr. Fenstermacher and Dr. Hazle, the side effects of the treatment are minimal. During the procedure, patients will feel waves of heat in the breast area. Patients may have mild discomfort in the treated breast for around 24 to 36 after treatment.

While the treatment holds promise, based on basic science and animal research, some physicians are concerned that non-invasive procedures are too minimal. However, a Harvard study that will be released next month, suggests that tumor ablation successfully destroys benign (non-cancerous) breast tumors.

"In the not too distant future, we think that this non-invasive, patient-friendly therapy may replace surgery as a primary method of treatment for those with breast cancer. It also looks like a very promising therapy for other types of cancer, with studies planned to investigate its effectiveness in treating tumors of the uterus and soft tissue sarcomas," said Dr. Fenstermacher in an M.D. Anderson Cancer Center news release.

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is still enrolling participants for the clinical trial that is testing the effectiveness of magnetic resonance guided tumor ablation. Patients must be M.D. Anderson surgical patients and meet specific eligibility requirements. Patients must have breast tumors 2 centimeters in size or less, have not been treated with chemotherapy for the last 3 months, and be physically able to undergo an MRI. For more information, please call the M.D. Anderson Information Line at 1.800.392.1611, option 3.

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