Treating Mesothelioma with Cryoablation

Illustration of mesothelioma research

In the ongoing search to find a cure for deadly cancers like mesothelioma, doctors and research scientists continue to explore new areas of treatment. One such treatment is cryoablation (also known as cryotherapy or cryosurgery).

Cryoablation is a medical procedure that uses exceptionally cold temperatures to kill or damage tissue in the body. Specifically, cryoablation can destroy tissue in three ways:

  • Stopping cellular metabolism
  • Interrupting the flow of blood
  • Triggering apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death

By targeting malfunctioning tissue using cryoablation, doctors have been able to develop treatments for a number of conditions such as cardiac arrhythmia, fibroadenoma, certain prostate conditions, and several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), and mesothelioma. Cryoablation has also been used as a palliative treatment to relieve pain caused by metastasis.

Mesothelioma and Cryoablation

A number of clinical trials have been conducted to study the effectiveness of cryotherapy for treating mesothelioma.

According to a meta-analysis of mesothelioma treatment techniques, published in early 2015, the use of cryoablation to treat mesothelioma in one study of 24 patients resulted in lower incidences of recurrence. Specifically, those who underwent cryotherapy as part of the study experienced:

  • A median survival time of nearly one year after the first therapy
  • A median survival time of a little more than three years after surgery

The analysis also indicated that cryoablation can improve natural killer cell activity, T-cell responses and interferon production.

One particularly promising study showed that cryoablation may be useful in situations where traditional therapies are shown to be ineffective. In a 2012 paper, researchers tested experimental therapies – including photodynamic therapy, intracavity chemotherapy, and cryosurgery – on patients for whom systemic chemotherapy had failed. The reported results indicate that patients who received a comprehensive treatment of all three experimental therapies had a significantly longer overall survival rate than those who received only palliative care. Although the study did not look at cryoablation specifically, it shows how cryotherapy techniques can be used effectively as part of a larger course of treatment for mesothelioma.

The Future of Cryoablation

There is still a lot of research to be done, and it may be years before cryosurgery becomes a mainstream treatment. Clinical trials are being conducted to study the effectiveness of the treatment, such as NCT02464904: Intrapleural Cryotherapy for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, a current study being run by the Mayo Clinic.

For now, however, cryotherapy appears to be a promising development in the experimental treatment of mesothelioma and other forms of cancer.