Finding ways to treat, prevent, and even cure cancer has been the subject of intense scientific interest over the past few years. Despite many advances in cancer treatment over the decades, there is still a need for cancer treatment to help address a range of health care needs for patients with different kinds of cancer.
Options like chemotherapy and radiation have been the staple treatments for cancer for many years. While they are effective in certain ways, they also have their own limitations, which include significant, uncomfortable side effects and the potential for chemo-resistant cancer. Options like surgery can be daunting and for some, not even a viable option to begin.
That’s why new cancer treatments are needed, but where can people turn. One potential option, cryoablation, has been used in a range of other health care contexts to treat other health care conditions. Research suggests it could hold potential for some patients. Sound too good to be true? Keep reading to learn more.
What is cryoablation?
Cryoablation refers to the use of cold temperature to target and destroy selected tissue. Goal of cryoablation generally is to use cold to destroy tissue that contains malfunctioning or abnormal cells that are causing health problems for someone. It is also sometimes called cryotherapy or cryosurgery.
What role does cryoablation play in our health?
Cryoablation actually plays a role in a number of health procedures and is a common and standard treatment for many conditions. For example, some procedures to treat atrial fibrillation use cryoablation. The goal is to target abnormal cells in the heart that might be causing an abnormal heart rhythm. Destroying the cells could help restore the heart to its normal function.
How does cryoablation help with cancer?
The idea behind using cryoablation therapy for cancer treatment is that ablating cancer cells and tissue could shrink tumors, similar to how chemotherapy or radiation therapy might work. It’s commonly used when a patient isn’t able to undergo surgery for any reason, which is often used to remove as much of a tumor as possible to make systemic treatments like chemotherapy more effective. To generate cold temperatures, materials like liquid nitrogen are usually used.
Cryoablation is only used for certain cancers. These include bone, cervical, lung, liver, and prostate cancer, among others. During a cryoablation procedure, a health care provider will use a small device (like a stick or a needle) and go directly through your skin to your tumor, where ever it may be located.
In contrast to cryoablation, some procedures may use heat for cancer, though cryoablation has been shown to be more effective.
In addition to affecting the targeted area, cryoablation may have a “domino effect” impact on cancer cells. Cancer cells destroyed by cryoablation may induce the immune system to further attack other cancer cells, meaning that cryoablation can affect cancer cells beyond the target tissue.
Is cryoablation an effective treatment for cancer?
Because cryoablation has been around for some time, it’s well established that cyroablation may offer cancer patients significant benefit as a treatment option. Here is was some of the existing literature says about cryoablation’s effectiveness as a cancer treatment:
- Has a synergistic relationship with immunotherapies. Some studies show that when combined with immunotherapies, cryoablation and immunotherapy work together to create a more powerful anticancer reaction.
- Nanoparticles could help deliver cryoablation therapy. Because research has shown that cryoablation can be a potent treatment option (especially compared to heat-based ablation procedures) researchers are looking at new ways to deliver cryoablation therapy, including the use of nanoparticles.
- Helps patients who have cancer that can’t be removed surgically. Some cancers, like metastatic cancer or pancreatic cancers, are not good candidates for surgical “resection” or removal of tumor tissue. Research has shown that cryoablation can be a particularly powerful technique used in place of surgery, helping these cancer patients and causing few, if any, side effects.
Is cryoablation a safe treatment for cancer?
While there are certain risks, cryoablation procedures are generally safe. Especially because they are used for a range of other conditions, researchers have developed standard practices for administering cryoablation procedures.
With any type of cancer treatment, it’s important to make sure you fully understand the available treatment options and choose options that work for you. This should include talking to your doctor before starting any cancer treatment. They can help you decide which treatment options are right for you.