Surgeons Use Microwaves to Destroy Tumors

February 3, 2009,
Surgeons observe on a monitor the destruction of a tumor in less than ten minutes.

A new minimally-invasive option for treating liver tumors, called microwave ablation, is now available at UC San Diego Medical Center and Moores UCSD Cancer Center, the only hospitals in the region to offer this technology to patients.

“A liver tumor can be removed in many ways,” said Marquis Hart, MD, transplant surgeon at UC San Diego Medical Center. “Now, patients at UC San Diego have a new option called ‘microwave ablation.’ Simply put, we zap and destroy liver tumors with heat derived from microwave energy. This is an important alternative, especially since the majority of liver cancers cannot be partially removed and not all patients are transplant candidates.”

Liver cancer is on the rise in the United States, linked closely with the epidemic of hepatitis and other conditions causing cirrhosis, a degenerative disease of the liver. Current treatment options for liver cancer include transplantation, partial surgical removal of the liver, chemotherapy, radiation, or ablation—the destruction of abnormal tissue with heat from radiofrequency waves, high frequency ultrasound, freezing, or alcohol injection. Now, microwave technology, offered by Covidien, removes the tumor with intense heat.

To perform the procedure, Hart accesses the tumor through the skin, or through a small laparoscopic port or open incision. With ultrasound guidance or a computed tomography (CT) scan, the tumor is located and then pierced with a thin antenna which emits microwaves. This energy spins the water molecules in the tumor producing friction which causes heat. Temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) cause cellular death, usually within 10 minutes.

“Microwave ablation causes the tumor to be quickly and precisely removed. If necessary, multiple tumors can be treated at the same time,” said Hart. “This method appears to be more efficient than other ablation techniques which translates to better tumor destruction and less time for the patient under general anesthesia.”

In addition to liver disease, microwave ablation has promising potential in the treatment of lung, kidney, and bone cancer.

“The incidence of liver cancer in the United States has more than doubled in the last 20 years,” said Hart. “Conditions that cause chronic liver damage increase the risk of liver cancer. Fortunately the treatment options at UC San Diego Medical Center and Moores UCSD Cancer Center are numerous. No where else in the region will you find a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, hepatologists, radiologists, and oncologists offering the latest in cancer care. With a team dedicated specifically to the liver, our patients receive cutting-edge care from a diverse team of experts.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, primary liver and bile duct cancers are the fifth most common cause of cancer death in men and the ninth most common cause of cancer death in women. More than 90 percent of all cases occur in men and women age 45 or older. Liver cancer is closely associated with hepatitis virus infections. The incidence and mortality rates for these cancers have increased in all races and both sexes in the past two decades.

Established in 1965, the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego Medical Center represents more than 80 leading surgeons with specialties in open, minimally invasive, and scarless surgery techniques. The Department is committed to advancing surgical education by teaching and training the next generation of innovators; researching, testing and developing groundbreaking surgical techniques; providing superior patient care and service; and attracting a world-class faculty.

Every year surgeons at UC San Diego Medical Center and Moores UCSD Cancer Center are recognized locally as San Diego’s Top Doctors and nationally as the physician-scientists who are developing emerging surgical techniques.

The Moores UCSD Cancer Center is one of the nation’s 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, combining research, clinical care and community outreach to advance the prevention, treatment and cure of cancer.

Provided by University of California, San Diego

Explore further: Rapid radiation therapy minimizes treatment time, improves quality of life

Related Stories

Rapid radiation therapy minimizes treatment time, improves quality of life

February 16, 2018
Faster isn't always better, but in the case of radiation therapy for some cancers, accelerating radiation courses can help patients get on the road to recovery sooner.

Uterine lining test improves chances of a successful pregnancy

February 16, 2018
It takes a healthy embryo and a healthy mother to nurture the microscopic meeting of a sperm and an egg through nine months of development before a baby can be born.

Study shows liver cells with whole genome duplications protect against cancer

February 9, 2018
Researchers at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute (CRI) at UT Southwestern have discovered that cells in the liver with whole genome duplications, known as polyploid cells, can protect the liver against cancer. ...

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Scientists block the siren call of two aggressive cancers

January 23, 2018
Aggressive cancers like glioblastoma and metastatic breast cancer have in common a siren call that beckons the bone marrow to send along whatever the tumors need to survive and thrive.

Recommended for you

Similarities found in cancer initiation in kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas

February 21, 2018
Recent research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis demonstrated that mature cells in the stomach sometimes revert back to behaving like rapidly dividing stem cells. Now, the researchers have found that ...

Genes activated in metastasis also drive the first stages of tumour growth

February 21, 2018
In spite of the difference between the cell functions responsible for giving rise to a tumour and that give rise to metastasis, studies at IRB Barcelona using the fly Drosophila melanogaster reveal that some genes can drive ...

Researchers discover novel mechanism linking changes in mitochondria to cancer cell death

February 20, 2018
To stop the spread of cancer, cancer cells must die. Unfortunately, many types of cancer cells seem to use innate mechanisms that block cancer cell death, therefore allowing the cancer to metastasize. While seeking to further ...

Stem cell vaccine immunizes lab mice against multiple cancers

February 15, 2018
Stanford University researchers report that injecting mice with inactivated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) launched a strong immune response against breast, lung, and skin cancers. The vaccine also prevented relapses ...

Induced pluripotent stem cells could serve as cancer vaccine, researchers say

February 15, 2018
Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, are a keystone of regenerative medicine. Outside the body, they can be coaxed to become many different types of cells and tissues that can help repair damage due to trauma or ...

Team paves the way to the use of immunotherapy to treat aggressive colon tumors

February 15, 2018
In a short space of time, immunotherapy against cancer cells has become a powerful approach to treat cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer. However, to date, most colon tumours appeared to be unresponsive to this kind ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

hudres
not rated yet Feb 03, 2009
Hardly New. First demonstrated in 1985.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.