Freezing treatment shows promise for kidney cancer patients

In collaboration with the Press Association

A pilot study has found that cryotherapy may prove to be an effective treatment for certain kidney cancer patients who are unable to undergo surgery for medical reasons.

The technique, which is also known as cryoablation or cryosurgery, kills cancer cells using a hollow needle-like device filled with argon gas.

The gas quickly freezes the tumour, providing an alternative to removing the kidney in patients for whom surgery is inadvisable.

However, doctors have to follow up patients for longer than usual to ensure the cancer does not return and the treatment is only recommended for patients with small, early stage kidney cancer who cannot have surgery for other health reasons.

The latest study looked at 62 kidney cancer patients who underwent cryotherapy and found that patients were cancer-free for up to two-and-a-half years after the procedure.

Of the 91 tumours treated in the study - which ranged from 1.5cm to 7.3cm in size - 89 were treated effectively in a single session, and all 62 patients for whom data was available remained cancer-free after two-and-a-half years.

Primary investigator Dr Thomas Atwell, a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said that further research would be needed before the procedure could be widely applied, but added: "This procedure appears to be a good option for some patients."

However, surgery is known to be highly effective in the treatment of kidney cancer and is still advisable for those able to have an operation.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.