"I believe that this treatment will soon enter into the guidelines for the clinical management of liver cancer patients," said the first study's lead author, Riccardo Lencioni, M.D., a radiology professor at the University of Pisa in Italy.
Liver cancer is the most common organ malignancy worldwide and generally carries a poor prognosis. Surgical resection removing the cancerous portion of the liver is considered the best hope for a cure. Unfortunately, most patients do not qualify for surgery. Liver transplantations are available for a small number of patients, but organ supply is limited, and tumor progression during the prolonged waiting period results in a high dropout rate. Consequently, RF ablation has emerged as an alternative treatment for inoperable liver cancer and may also be useful as a bridge to liver transplantation.
RF ablation is a minimally invasive procedure where an interventional radiologist uses an image-guided electrode needle to deliver heat directly to tumors, in effect "cooking" them.
Dr. Lencioni and colleagues performed RF ablation on 187 early-stage liver cancer patients with cirrhosis who were not candidates for surgery. People with cirrhosis or Hepatitis B or C virus infections are at increased risk of developing liver cancer. Fewer than 5 percent of liver-cancer patients with cirrhosis qualify for surgical liver resection, and the liver donor shortage limits transplant availability.
"RF ablation was shown to be a safe therapeutic option, with no treatment-induced mortality and a complication rate below 2 percent," Dr. Lencioni said.
Ninety-seven percent of the patients survived one year, 71 percent survived three years, and 48 percent survived
Contact: Maureen Morley
Radiological Society of North America