New research suggests that using a laser to heat and destroy tumors may be an effective way to treat small breast cancer. This finding could potentially save some women from a lumpectomy.
The laser ablation technique is called Novilase Breast Therapy. It involves placing small probes in the center of the cancer then using heat from the laser to destroy the tumors.
Researchers predict that if the research continues to pan out, that the new technique could replace lumpectomy for some women and be more cosmetically appealing.
The study evaluated 60 women with early stage, small breast cancers that measured up to 2 centimeters in diameter or about three-quarters of an inch. The women were treated at various sites in the United States and the United Kingdom. The women in the study also underwent radiation therapy.
After the treatment, the tissue that was heated slowly shrinks and forms a scar.
Four weeks after the ablation treatment, the treated tissue was removed through surgery. The tissue was then examined to look for remaining cancer cells. the women also had MRIs.
About 91% of the patients had complete destruction of the cancer when the laser procedure was performed. There was an overall 84% complete tumor destruction rate with the laser treatment.
Researchers also found that the MRI findings were similar to the laboratory examination of the cancer cells findings. This finding suggests that in the future MRI alone could be used to tracks success of the laser treatment.
Laser treatment is done with local anesthesia and ultrasound to guide the doctor doing the procedure. It takes about 15 minutes.
Researchers have been working on laser treatments for breast cancer for the past 15 years. Lasers are currently used to treat prostate, pancreatic and liver tumors.
The details still need to be worked out, such as the optimal size of the tumor to treat with laser and ways to predict which women won’t respond.