A recent article in The Journal of Urology provides additional evidence that radio frequency ablation (RFA) produces short-term benefits for patients with small renal tumors who are unable to undergo surgery.
The kidneys are each filled with tiny tubules that clean and filter the blood to remove waste and make urine. Renal cell cancer is a malignancy involving these tubules of the kidney. Surgical removal of the tumor is the standard treatment for early stage kidney cancer; however, some patients are not good candidates for surgery. An emerging alternative treatment for small kidney cancers in patients who are unable to tolerate surgery is a technique called radiofrequency ablation (RFA). This minimally invasive technique uses heat to destroy cancer cells. During RFA, an electrode is placed directly into the tumor under the guidance of a CT scan, ultrasound or laparoscopy. The electrode’s high frequency radio waves create intense heat, which destroys the cancer cells.
In this study, researchers evaluated the effect of RFA among 46 patients with small kidney cancers (less than 4 centimeters) who were ineligible for surgery. Patients were followed for an average of two years after RFA in order to determine how the cancer had responded to treatment. Six patients required a second session of RFA for complete treatment. Three of the 46 patients had a cancer recurrence. These recurrences occurred at 24, 25 and 31 months after RFA. All of the patients with a recurrence initially had a tumor that was 3 centimeters or larger.
Researchers conclude that although longer follow-up is needed, RFA continues to offer promise for the treatment of patients with small kidney cancers that could not otherwise undergo surgery. They note that larger tumors (more than 3 centimeters) are more challenging to treat with this approach and are more prone to recurrence afterwards.
Reference: Varkarakis IO, Allaf ME, Takeshi I et al. Percutaneous radio frequency ablation of renal masses: results at a 2-year mean followup. The Journal of Urology. 2005;174:456-460.
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