Friday 12 April 2013

Ablation of bone tumours

For patients with advanced cancer bone tumours, (whether from primary bone cancers like osteosarcoma or metastases from other types of cancer, such as breast or prostate), can be a cause of persistent and hard to treat pain. A standard treatment in many such situations is radiotherapy, which can have unpleasant side-effects, and, in the case of Li Fraumeni Syndrome patients, might also have long-term implications regarding further cancers. Additionally, treating cancer pain with opiate-based pain-killers, such as morphine, can also be problematic given the evidence that opioids can cause further cancer progression (though this can be reversed with the use of naltrexone).

In which case there’s some encouraging news being reported at the 29th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. A group of French clinicians have reported on treating patients with tumour pain, including bone tumours, with micro-wave ablation (MWA).

One of the doctors, Adrian Kastler of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire, in Besançon, France, is reported as saying:
"This technique may be applied to any patient suffering from bone tumour pain, mainly in patients suffering from bone metastases, refractory to conventional therapies. The main advantage of ablation techniques is the fast pain relief obtained - immediately after the procedure - as opposed to delayed pain relief obtained with radiation therapy… Our research showed that the use of MWA in bone and soft-tissue tumours is feasible and effective concerning pain palliation. However, MWA needs to be studied in order to apply the same procedure in a curative intention." 
The last point is certainly one that needs urgent attention. Bone tumours are notoriously hard to treat, so any new treatment that shows signs of being effective needs to be researched as a matter of priority. And, given that primary bone cancers are often unresponsive to chemotherapy, any physical treatments that can be used alongside surgery are urgently needed.

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