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Radiofrequency ablation targets tumor, spares healthy liver tissue, can add several years to life

-- Jeff Muise

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 (Last Updated: 03/18/2010)

WEDNESDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- Minimally invasive radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to kill colon cancer cells that have metastasized to the liver can extend a patient's life by nearly three years, according to research presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology, held from March 13 to 18 in Tampa, Fla.

Constantinos T. Sofocleous, M.D., of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues treated 56 patients with liver tumors (average size, 1.9 cm) who had been treated previously with surgery and chemotherapy. The researchers used computed tomography-guided RFA to apply heat directly to cancer cells while sparing healthy liver tissue. The researchers followed and treated the patients as needed over a six-year period and noted survival rates.

The researchers found that the average survival was 31 months, with a survival rate of 91 percent at one year, 66 percent at two years, and 41 percent at three years. Survival was affected by several risk factors, such as the primary cancer nodal status, the interval from primary cancer to liver metastases, the number and size of tumors, and the size of the largest tumor ablated. Patients with no more than two risks factors had superior outcomes.

"This is particularly important for patients who develop new colon cancer in the liver after prior surgery. In general, these patients have a smaller amount of liver tissue; another surgery is usually not possible or very difficult and associated with higher risk," Sofocleous said in a statement.

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