Pioneering breast cancer treatment turns tumour into 'ball of ice'
Breast cancer patients may no longer need to go through painful surgery, thanks to a new technique that destroys cancerous tumours by freezing them.
In this pioneering treatment, a supercooled needle tip is repeatedly inserted into the cancerous tissue to turn it into a ball of ice, before it is then defrosted, leaving the tumour damaged, the Daily Mail reported.
The technique, which requires no anaesthesia, can be completed in about 15 minutes and could provide a better alternative to the current method of surgery that requires women to stay in hospital for up to a week and can leave scars.
Thirty breast cancer patients are currently trialling the system, which uses a needle cooled to -170C (-274F) by pumping liquid nitrogen through a network of tiny tubes.
The surgeon can control the size of the ice ball produced to ensure it freezes the entire tumour in a procedure known as cryoablation.
Scientists from the Israel-based company IceCure Medical, which developed the device, say it could be used on cancerous masses up to the size of a golf ball.
"There have been attempts before to use heat to destroy cancer cells like this, but that can be extremely painful because our bodies are very sensitive to heat," the paper quoted chief executive Hezi Himmelfarb as telling The Sunday Telegraph.
"Cold has an anaesthetising effect, so the patients feel very little pain during or after the procedure.
"We have developed the system so it can be carried out in a normal doctors' surgery as it is minimally invasive and relatively quick," Himmelfarb added.
The device has already been approved for use in the United States and IceCure is hopeful of getting European approval next year.
They believe cryoablation could also be used to treat kidney, prostate and liver cancer.