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MRI-Guided Lasers Burn Kidney, Liver Tumors

October 15, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Abdominal Imaging, Interventional Radiology
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MRI-guided laser ablation shows great promise for precisely destroying small tumors by means of heat, say physicians at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus in Jacksonville.

Surgeons there have successfully used the technique to treat kidney or liver tumors in five patients. Mayo Clinic’s original location in Rochester, Minnesota, has used laser ablation on patients with recurrent prostate tumors.

Said Eric Walser, MD, as quoted in a Mayo news release:

Laser ablation offers us a way to precisely target and kill tumors without harming the rest of the organ. We believe there are a lot of potential uses of this technique.

Dr. Walser is an interventional radiologist who has pioneered the technique at Mayo in Florida. He learned the method in Italy and has been using it in Florida since June. In this country, it’s primarily used to treat brain, spine, and prostate tumors but is cleared by the FDA for any soft-tissue tumor, according to Mayo. The doctors say it could potentially work on most tumors, primary or metastatic, as long as there are only a few in any one organ and they are each less than 5 centimeters in diameter.

The procedures are performed inside an MRI machine. A nonmetal needle is inserted into the organ to deliver the laser’s energy. The MRI clearly shows the heated area, and doctors can see on the monitor exactly when the heat has destroyed the tumor.

Mayo Florida is a large liver-transplant center. Many patients waiting for a transplant have cirrhosis and small tumors in the liver. “We treated the tumors to keep them at bay because we could not use chemotherapy in these patients, who are quite ill and are waiting for a new liver,” Dr. Walser said.

David Woodrum, MD, PhD, of Mayo Rochester, has successfully used the technique on seven patients, mostly to treat prostate cancer but also to help one patient with melanoma whose cancer had spread to his liver. Dr. Woodrum reported his experiences at the March meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology. At that point, he had used it on four prostate-cancer patients who had failed surgery.

According to Dr. Walser, laser ablation is much more precise than such similar methods as radiofrequency ablation, which also zaps tumors with heat, and cryotherapy, which kills tumors by freezing them.

Related seminar: Interventional Radiology Review

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