Non-Surgical Approach Can Treat Lung Cancers

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WEDNESDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- A minimally invasive procedure normally used to treat liver cancer also holds promise for lung cancer patients, according to a new study.

In the study, expected to be published in the July edition of The Lancet Oncology, 88 percent of lung cancer patients responded well to treatment with percutaneous image-guided radiofrequency ablation (RFA). RFA is performed in less than an hour and is a non-surgical procedure that targets large tumors with no harm to surrounding healthy tissue. After one year, 70 percent of patients survived at least one year with few side effects; none that impaired lung function, the researchers report.

As alternative to surgery in difficult liver cancer patients, RFA has proven successful, with no negative effect on quality of life, and it requires only a short hospital stay.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. Surgery is the standard treatment for early-stage, non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which constitutes about 80 percent of most malignant lung tumors. Unfortunately not all patients are eligible due to other health reasons. The alternatives, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, do not have good survival rates.

The study, conducted at Cisanello University Hospital, in Pisa, Italy, involved 106 patients with malignant lung tumors that were smaller than 5 cm in diameter. Thirty-three patients had NSCLC; 53, metastatic lung cancer from the colon; and 20, metastatic lung cancer from other sites in the body. All the patients had been turned down for surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

The major post-RFA complications were pneumothorax (27 instances) and pleural effusion (4 instances) which needed drainage.

"Our study shows that radiofrequency ablation can be completed successfully in high percentage of patients with small lung tumors. ...The safety profile of the procedure was also acceptable, with no mortality or life-threatening complications associated with it. ... A randomized controlled trial comparing radiofrequency ablation versus standard treatment options is now warranted to prove the clinical benefit of this approach," the researchers wrote.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about lung cancer.