KCBC Testing Novel Freezing Technique On Early Stage Breast Cancer

The Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center (KCBC) is the first in Tennessee – and is among just a handful of breast centers in the country – to offer an exciting new way to treat breast cancer by freezing the tumor.

This minimally invasive technique, called FROST (Freezing Instead of Resection of Small Tumors), can be done on an outpatient basis at KCBC using local anesthesia.

“There’s nothing better than seeing my patients walk out of the office happy to go home after the procedure because they know that their early stage breast cancer has been taken care of without surgery or a change in the shape of their breast,” said Kamilia Kozlowski, M.D., a clinical breast radiologist and founder of KCBC.

Freezing, also called cryoablation, has been used successfully for decades to treat several types of cancer, most commonly liver, lung and prostate. The process uses liquid nitrogen to freeze tumors and damage the adjacent blood vessels that fuel their growth. “We know that it works in other cancers,” Dr. Kozlowski says.  “That is why we are participating in this clinical trial, to prove that it works in breast cancer.”

The technology uses a probe that channels liquid nitrogen to flow within a precise area of the needle so that it creates a freeze zone. This creates what Kozlowski calls an “iceball” around the tumor that freezes and kills it.

This is a minimally invasive procedure done under local anesthesia and ultrasound guidance in the office.  The procedure can usually be done in under an hour.  Patients can resume normal activity right away.

Kozlowski says FROST offers a safe, effective option for women with early-stage breast cancer (typically with a tumor size of 1.5 cm. or smaller), especially when they are not good candidates for standard treatments (for example, if they have other medical conditions that would make surgery risky). It is also less likely to disfigure the breast because no breast tissue is removed and the aftereffects are “minimal.” Patients receive imaging every six months after the treatment as follow-up.

Currently, the standard of care for early-stage breast cancer is surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy) followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy. A major drawback of surgery is cosmetic and functional impairment of the breast.

An important added bonus of the FROST treatment is that it may stimulate an immune response in the body that will keep it on the lookout for any stray cancer cells, even after the tumor is destroyed.

“The thinking is that once we freeze the tumor cells and the dead cells enter the blood to be eliminated, the body will perceive them as abnormal and begin creating antibodies to them,” adds Lusi Tumyan, M.D., a diagnostic radiologist and assistant clinical professor in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at City of Hope who is also participating in this clinical trial. “So not only do you get this freezing effect, you also get this immunological effect. It’s exciting and we should be looking at that effect also.”

An initial five-year, multicenter study of cryoablation to treat early-stage breast cancer sponsored by the National Cancer Institute found it to be 92 percent effective for complete ablation of invasive breast tumors smaller than 2 centimeters and 100 percent effective for complete ablation of invasive ductal breast cancer tumors smaller than 1 centimeter.

Results from this study led to the current FROST trial, for which Dr. Kozlowski is actively recruiting patients. The FROST Clinical Study is currently enrolling women age 50 and older with core needle biopsy proven clinical stage I, T1, (≤1.5 cm.) clinically node negative (N0), unifocal, hormone receptor positive and HER2/neu-negative invasive ductal carcinoma. For more information, please go to www.clinicaltrials.gov.

“This is the future.  It offers a noninvasive treatment of breast cancer. Patients can come into our office and they go home the same day. It’s so rewarding to offer this advanced technology to our patients with early stage breast cancer, when appropriate,” said Dr. Kozlowski.

About KCBC

Since its inception in 1983, the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center was the first independent breast center of its kind in Tennessee.  At KCBC Dr. Kamilia Kozlowski has developed Clinical Breast Radiology, a specialty which differs from traditional radiology in that clinical breast radiologists manage both the diagnostic and clinical aspects of care. Patients are not burdened with visits to multiple specialists, as clinical breast radiologists can diagnose and direct treatment in one setting.

KCBC is a multidisciplinary practice that delivers streamlined, cost-effective care in a comfortable setting.  Specialists include clinical breast radiologists, a dedicated breast surgeon, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, a breast pathologist, plastic and reconstructive surgeon and lymphedema specialist. Find out more by visiting http://www.knoxvillebreastcenter.com.