NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. The news can be devastating and the treatment can be long and painful. A possible new treatment may be able to freeze cancer in its tracks, literally. It also could make removing the cancer pain-free.
Mary Stein was diagnosed with breast cancer when she at 58-years-old.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was devastated. I just was in complete denial,” said Stein.
She was caught off guard, but determined.
“I said to myself ‘I’m going beat it, it’s not going to get to me’,” said Stein.
As part of her fight, Stein enrolled in a groundbreaking trial in which her breast cancer was frozen instead of it being cut out in surgery.
“I said great. If it’s going to work or not, it’s not going to harm me and I’m going to help other people, help myself, let’s go for it,” said Stein
The freezing process is called cryoablation.
Dr. Rache Simmons is leading the research at Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.
“What were doing is looking for a way to treat breast cancer in the future without surgery,” said Simmons.
Under local anesthesia, a thin probe is inserted into the breast into the middle of the cancer. The tip of the probe cools to negative 170 degrees Celsius. Within seconds, the cancer is frozen. The cancer is later cut out or resected but the freezing process already killed it.
“We are showing so far that when we do resect the cancer, that the cancer is completely destroyed,” said Simmons.
The cryoablation procedure has also been used successfully to treat prostate and liver cancer. If it can be perfected for women with breast cancer, it could prevent thousands of surgeries every year.
“It’s easier for the patient. They would be able to come into the office, have the ultrasound cryoablation, a twenty minute procedure in the office without discomfort,” Simmons said.
A quick procedure isn’t the only benefit. Studies in mice have shown that freezing the cancer may release DNA into the body which helps the immune system fight cancer throughout the body.
“You treat the breast cancer with cryoablation. What we found was that other disease elsewhere in the body melts away and disappears,” said Simmons
Stein is now cancer free and wants all other women to know it’s a fight you can win.
“They are doing so much research and they’re helping us so much that there’s a cure, it’s not the end of the road its not the end of the line,” said Stein
The cryoablation trial is a nationwide study funded by the national cancer institute. They are still enrolling patients.