And while the number of patients studied to date is small, the vast majority -- seven of nine -- had no residual cancer after their invasive tumors were frozen in a minimally invasive ultrasound-guided procedure called cryoablation. Two others had nearly complete cancer elimination, with one experiencing total death of the invasive portion of her cancer and the other showing a small portion of invasive tumor remaining.
The initial results also yielded important clues about which patients might be the best candidates for the procedure in the future, based on their tumors' size and appearance on ultrasound images. And the results confirmed that the procedure caused no cosmetic changes to the breast's appearance.
U-M breast radiologist Marilyn Roubidoux, M.D., will present the results on Dec. 3 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
"While this is an early result, it is encouraging, and it will guide future research on this technique for patients with malignant disease," says Roubidoux, an associate professor of radiology at the U-M Medical School. "For instance, the experience with these first nine patients gives us clues to patient selection. We hope that if further investigation continues to yield good results, this technique may become a viable option for women with early-stage disease."
The study of nine U-M patients is part of a larger multicenter clinical trial of cryoablation for malignant breast cancer, led by U-M surgical oncologist Michael S. Sabel, M.D. The results of the entire trial are in press, but the U-M team is sharing the results from its group of patients with radiologists at RSNA.