Cryotherapy, or the freezing of cancer cells, appears promising for patients with early stage lung cancer, according to a recent article published in the journal


Early superficial bronchogenic carcinoma (ESBC) refers to early stage cancer that is only present in the superficial layer of cells of the bronchi (any one of several large air passages in the lungs through which pass inhaled air and exhaled air). Currently, standard therapy for ESBC is under debate with no consensus reached regarding optimal treatment strategies.

Cryotherapy is a new treatment procedure that is still in investigative stages for various cancers. Cryotherapy is a technique that kills cancer cells by freezing them with sub-zero temperatures. During this procedure, hollow steel probes are placed inside and surrounding the cancer. Liquid nitrogen is then circulated through the probes, freezing the cancer cells and creating a ball of ice that surrounds the cancer. Once an adequate ice ball is formed, heated nitrogen is circulated through the probes. This process is then repeated.

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Recently, researchers from France conducted a clinical trial evaluating cryotherapy for the treatment of ESBC. Cryotherapy was performed through a rigid bronchoscope (a lighted tube that is placed into the bronchi). In this trial, 35 patients with ESBC received cryotherapy, 20% of whom had multiple locations of ESBC. One year following treatment, 91% of patients had a complete disappearance of cancer. Four years following treatment, only 10 patients experienced a local cancer recurrence. The treatment was well-tolerated by these patients.

These results are promising for patients with ESBC, as treatment with surgery is often associated with side effects. The researchers conducting this trial suggest that cryotherapy be proposed as initial therapy for patients with ESBC, particularly in those patients who may not tolerate surgery. Patients with ESBC may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of cryotherapy or participation in a clinical trial further evaluating this treatment. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include comprehensive, easy-to-use listing services provided by the National Cancer Institute ( and also provides personalized clinical trial searches on behalf of patients. ( Chest, Vol 120, pp 26-31, 2001)

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