According to results presented at the 30th annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology, radiofrequency ablation appears to be an effective treatment strategy for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), or cancer that has metastasized (spread) to the lung.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and Europe. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for approximately 75%-80% of all lung cancer. The lungs are also a common site for the metastasis, or spread of cancer that originated elsewhere in the body. Unfortunately, many patients with NSCLC or lung metastasis are not eligible for the surgical removal of the tumor in the lung due to poor medical condition or because of the location of the cancer within the lung. These patients are often treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy and/or targeted therapy, and long-term survival tends to be poor.

Radiofrequency ablation (RF) is a type of treatment that utilizes high temperatures to kill cancer cells. The procedure typically involves a small probe that is placed into or near the cancer through visual guidance using scans, such as computed tomography (CT) scans. The heat causes the contents of the cells to coagulate, ultimately causing their death. Radiofrequency ablation is often used for tumors in the liver, and is associated with low risks of side effects.

A multicenter clinical trial was recently conducted to evaluate the use of RF in the treatment of early NSCLC, or lung metastasis in patients who were not eligible for surgery. This trial, referred to as the Radiofrequency Ablation of Pulmonary Tumors Response Evaluation (RAPTURE) included 33 patients with NSCLC, 53 patients with colorectal cancer that had lung metastasis, and 20 patients with lung metastasis from various types of cancer. All of the patients’ tumors were 3.5 centimeters or smaller. The average age of the patient was 65 years. Two years following RF, cancer-free survival was 91.5% for patients with NSCLC, and 72% for patients with colorectal cancer with lung metastasis. Complete ablation of the cancer was achieved in 93% of all tumors. Most deaths within the first 2 years were due to cardiovascular disease or poor lung functions which were not associated with RF treatment.

The researchers concluded that RF appears to be a highly effective treatment option in patients with early NSCLC or those with lung metastasis from other cancers who are not eligible for surgery. The researchers stated that a clinical trial directly comparing RF to other treatment modalities is necessary in this patient population to truly determine the clinical effectiveness of RF. Patients with early NSCLC or lung metastasis from other cancers who are not eligible for surgery may wish to speak with their physician about their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating RF or other treatment options. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.

Reference: Lenconi R, et al. Radiofrequency Ablation of Pulmonary Tumors Response Evaluation (RAPTURE) Trial: 2-Year Survival Outcomes. Proceedings from the Society of Interventional Radiology 30th Annual Meeting. Presented April 2, 2005. Abstract #506.

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