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Fox Chase Cancer Center Offers Experimental Treatment for Lung Cancer; Radiofrequency Ablation Uses Heat to Eliminate Tumors

PHILADELPHIA (November 11, 2002) -- Surgeons at Fox Chase Cancer Center are studying the use of an experimental medical device that may eliminate lung tumors without surgery. Radiofrequency (RF) ablation is an FDA-approved procedure being tested to treat patients with lung cancers. Ablation refers to treatment by destruction of a small portion of tissue, rather than removal of part or all of an organ.

"Treating people with early primary or metastatic lung tumors most often requires surgery," explained Fox Chase thoracic surgical oncologist, Walter J. Scott, M.D. "Unfortunately, to effectively treat these cancer patients, it often is necessary to remove part of the lung as well. But RF ablation could allow us to eliminate the tumor without surgery and without removing any of the lung."

RF ablation is performed with a relatively small probe, similar in size to a biopsy needle, which is inserted into the tumor. Within that probe are several smaller probes that open much like an umbrella. The probes are connected to an electronic device, which delivers the RF energy. The heat from the energy kills the tumor and an adequate margin of noncancerous tissue to ensure that the entire tumor is ablated.

The RF ablation probe can be inserted percutaneously-that is, through the skin-to reach the tumor.

"This procedure has been proven effective in the treatment of liver tumors, but there is limited experience in the use of RF ablation to treat lung tumors," Scott said. "When RF ablation is performed through the skin, it is a minimally invasive technique. It can be much less traumatic than surgery and even performed on an outpatient basis."

For this study, the effectiveness of RF ablation will be measured in patients who are undergoing a lobectomy, or removal of a portion of the lung. The probes will be inserted into the tumor during surgery, but prior to the lobectomy.

"We hope to demonstrate that RF ablation will be effective in eliminating lung tumors in this setting, but the ultimate goal is to perform the procedure through the skin with the help of imaging equipment such as a CT scan or MRI," explained Scott.

Scott explained that the procedure could take several minutes, depending on the size of the tumor. When the treatment is finished, the needle is slowly withdrawn. Upon withdrawal, a low level of RF energy is deposited along the needle tract to cauterize the area, minimizing bleeding.

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related deaths. The American Cancer Society estimates that lung cancer will kill approximately 154,900 people this year. More than 169,400 people are expected to be diagnosed with the disease before the end of 2002.


Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

Media inquiries only, please contact Diana Quattrone at 215-728-7784.

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