Heat kills inoperable liver tumors without initiating onslaught of harmful hormones

By Melanie Fridl Ross

Gainesville, FL --- The hottest new weapon in the surgeon's arsenal against liver cancer uses heat instead of cold, a shift that could put the freeze on what until now has been the standard therapy for inoperable tumors. What's more, it's easy, cheap and considerably less risky to perform than surgery or using cold to zap malignancies.

Now University of Florida researchers have found that the technique, known as radiofrequency ablation, does not initiate a cascade of harmful hormones that often causes patients who undergo the alternative -- cryotherapy -- to go into shock. Surgeons are scheduled to report the new findings Saturday (2/3) at the annual scientific meeting of the Southeastern Surgical Congress in New Orleans.

"An unfortunate byproduct of cryotherapy is people will develop a form of shock related to the treatment, which has to do with the fact that circulating hormone levels in the body increase and cause a bad systemic reaction, similar to massive overwhelming infection," said Dr. Scott Schell an assistant professor of surgery and of molecular genetics and microbiology at UF's College of Medicine and the UF Shands Cancer Center.

Last summer, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of radiofrequency ablation, traditionally used to correct heart arrhythmias, for the treatment of liver tumors. For terminally ill liver cancer patients with no other options, the approach offers an alternative that helps slow the disease process, improving their quality of life, Schell said.

"These are patients who basically have no other hope," Schell said. "We are able to help set back the clock using radiofrequency ablation."

Of the estimated 150,000 patients who will be treated for colorectal cancer this year, about half will suffer a recurrence within five years. Less than a third of those people will respond to chemotherapy, and of the tumors that return, most spread to the liver. Chemotherapy doe

Contact: Jennifer Guyan
University of Florida

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