4 Apr 2012

Cutting Edge

The Inspire.com discussion groups are abuzz with an emerging treatment for difficult-to-reach ovarian cancer tumours called CyberKnife.  Contrary to what its name conjures up, it is a robotic radiosurgery system - a non-invasive alternative to conventional surgery.  It delivers pinpoint beams of high-dose radiation to tumours with remarkable accuracy.  It purports to offer a pain-free option to patients with inoperable or surgically complex tumours with quick recovery time.  All of this seems to indicate a better quality of treatment and perhaps lower cost overall.

Many ovarian cancer patients have their disease recur in lymph nodes which are often buried in the abdominal cavity.  Disturbing the bowel system to remove lymph nodes by conventional means is rarely done after initial surgery.  The usual secondary treatment involves serial chemotherapy.
This alternative offers new hope with no invasion.  Removing the source of the cancer - i.e. active nodes - offers potential remission without chemo.  Another favourite recurrence site is the liver - the Cyberknife.com site states that "these treatments are usually performed on an outpatient basis in one to five days.  Most patients experience minimal to no side effects...".  Wow.

This treatment could also be appropriate for patients whose health would not permit conventional surgery - no anaesthesia is involved and it eliminates the risk of hemorrhage and infection.  It could also be an option for patients who refuse surgery.   Of course, this technique is not a panacea for deeply embedded or inaccessible tumours.

CyberKnife has been around for years but is only recently being offered more aggressively to ovarian cancer patients.
A similar but different technique is called Gamma Knife - http://www.gamma-knife-surgery.com/.  According to their website, this treatment is recommended for brain lesions which do exist in ovarian cancer patient metastases, however, rarely.
Recent news has also covered successes of cryoblation - a technique of freezing cancerous tumours through injection.  This procedure has migrated from other types of cancer treatment such as prostate cancer.  It is now being offered as an alternative and/or adjunctive treatment to chemotherapy for recurrent OvCa in accessible tumours.

A great number of mainline chemotherapies for ovarian cancer originated after successes with the more prevalent cancers.  It's interesting to note that non-invasive treatment techniques are heading in the same direction.

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