Killing Cancer Cells with Microwave Ablation
A common technology provides state-of-the-art treatment for liver tumors
The same technology that warms your cup of coffee offers a promising new approach to treating liver cancer. Microwave ablation at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin adds to the arsenal of options for combating liver cancer, which strikes about 20,000 people in the United States each year. (American Cancer Society: new cases of primary liver and bile duct cancer predicted for 2008.)
Microwave ablation uses the heat-producing power of microwave energy to destroy cancerous tumors. A probe-like antenna inserted into the center of a tumor transmits electromagnetic waves, which cause water and other molecules within the tumor to vibrate many thousands of times a second. This action generates friction and heat that kill cancer cells.
Medical College of Wisconsin surgeon Edward J. Quebbeman, MD, PhD, is a member of the surgical team for the Liver, Pancreas and Bile Duct Cancer Program at the hospital. “Ablation is an integral part of our arsenal,” he said, indicating that accessibility of the tumor, blood supply and how much of the liver has to be sacrificed are among the factors determining individual treatment. “Microwave ablation works very quickly and is easily placed within the tumor. The speed and simplicity of placement can mean less time under anesthesia,” he said. “It offers us a range of possibilities.”
Surgeons can employ microwave ablation intra-operatively (as part of an open surgical procedure), laparoscopically (through small incisions), or percutaneously (through the skin). “The type of procedure depends on how many tumors the patient has, how large they are and where they are located within the liver,” Dr. Quebbeman said.
While a number of patients have only one tumor, others may have two, five or 100, according to Dr. Quebbeman. “Liver cancer should be approached with surgery whenever possible,” he said.Within the last year, Dr. Quebbeman has used microwave ablation to augment surgery. “I’ll remove one or more tumors from the liver and then use ablation to destroy several more and save the liver,” he said. “For some patients, microwave ablation is the only treatment option.”
The results of microwave ablation have been favorable. “So far, I’m encouraged,” Dr. Quebbeman said.
Microwave ablation is one of many effective treatments, including surgery and interventional radiology techniques. “The myth that having liver cancer is a death sentence is frequently not the case, and hasn’t been for 10-15 years,” Dr. Quebbeman said. “There are so many beneficial things we can do now.” In addition to treating liver disease, microwave ablation has promising potential in the treatment of lung, kidney and bone cancers.
Source: Froedtert Today
Date: May 2009