By: ABC6 News Staff

Twitter: @abc6

Reporting by: Melissa Randall

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — A promising new way to treat breast cancer is being studied locally. Rhode Island Hospital is one of only 10 sites in the nation, and the only hospital in New England, studying the effectiveness of freezing cancer cells to treat small malignant breast tumors.

The procedure, called Cryoblation, is done by hitting the cancer cells with extreme cold. This allows doctors to put down the scalpel and instead treat patient’s right in the office.

“It takes 30 minutes or less of a patient’s time. They’re in and out very quick. It uses only lidocane, a local anesthesia. There’s no operating time or anything like that,” explained Dr. Robert Ward, a radiologist and lead investigator for the FROST clinical trial. 

“It's a very small needle that we place using ultra sound guidance into the tumor and after a couple of freeze thaw cycles the treatment is over. Patient’s leave with a Band Aid,” he added.

Dr. Ward says women will feel a lump at first as the ice ball melts. That could take a few hours.

“After that there will be a little bit of post ablation change in that area and the body resorbs the tissue over time. So in weeks to months the tumor itself on imaging shrinks down to just about nothing,” said Dr. Ward.

While no surgery is required for this form of treatment, all other aspects of the patient’s care for breast cancer does remain the same. That’ includes hormone therapy.

Dr. Ward says the procedure has the potential to become the new standard of care.

“I think for certain patients with certain cancers, I think this is a really great treatment option. We'll have to see how this study plays out, but studies this one was based on have really showed promising results.”

In fact, he says the last one, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, had a 100 percent success rate for tumors less than a centimeter in size. The current study is looking at invasive tumors no greater than 1.5 centimeters in diameter.

The study is looking to enroll about 200 patients in the trial. Those who meet the criteria and undergo cryoblation will then be checked for any sign of the tumor recurring at 6 month intervals for 5 years.

To learn more about the trial at Rhode Island Hospital, please contact Liz Morrell at (401) 444-2277.

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