According to results recently presented at the Presidential Symposium of the 11th annual World Conference on Lung Cancer, radiofrequency ablation appears to be an effective and safe treatment method for patients with non-small cell lung cancer who are not eligible for surgery.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and Europe. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for approximately 75 percent to 80 percent 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, poor medical condition or the location of the cancer within the lung makes many patients with NSCLC or lung metastasis ineligible for surgical removal of the tumor. These patients are often treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy and/or targeted therapy. 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 guided visually by scans, such as computed tomography (CT) scans, and placed into or near the cancer. The heat causes the contents of the cells to coagulate and ultimately causes their death. RF is often used for tumors in the liver and is associated with low risks of side effects.

Researchers from Europe recently analyzed data from patients with lung cancer who were treated with RF. Participants included 48 patients with NSCLC who were not eligible for surgery and had been treated with radiofrequency ablation over a 4-year period. The size of the cancer had to be 3.5 cm or smaller in diameter. At a follow-up of over 20 months, the average duration of survival was 16.2 months for all patients. Survival was the greatest in patients with the earliest-stage (stage I) cancer (nearly 20 months), as opposed to those with more advanced cancers.

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The researchers concluded that radiofrequency ablation appears to be an effective and promising treatment approach for patients with NSCLC who are not eligible for surgery. Further research with longer follow-up is required to determine the true effectiveness of this approach. Patients with NSCLC who are not eligible for surgery may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participation in a clinical trial further evaluating RF or other novel therapeutic approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.

Reference: Ambrogi M, Lencioni R, Fontanini G, et al. Percutaneous radiofrequency ablation of primary NSCLC. Proceedings from the 11th World Conference on Lung Cancer, Barcelona, Spain. 2005; Abstract #Pr1.

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