MIT is reporting that the online Nov. 25 issue of the journal Cancer Therapy contains a multi center study showing that microwave energy is a promising method for tumor ablation, and could be used synergistically with chemotherapy for treatment of breast carcinomas. A two channel 915 MHz focused microwave adaptive phased array thermotherapy system, called Microfocus APA-1000 Breast Thermotherapy System, from Celsion Corporation was used in this study. The device is based on technology originally developed at MIT in the 1980s as a tool for missile detection.
In this study, large tumors treated with a combination of chemotherapy and a focused microwave heat treatment shrunk nearly 50 percent more than tumors treated with chemotherapy alone…
fifteen patients received two microwave heat treatments, known as thermotherapy, along with four rounds of chemotherapy before surgery. The goal was to shrink tumors sufficiently to enable a breast-conserving lumpectomy procedure instead of the expected, and more invasive, mastectomy. Surgeons concluded that fourteen of the tumors shrunk enough for this to be possible.
In 1990, Dr. Alan J. Fenn, a senior staff member at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, adapted the thermotherapy treatment from a system that used focused microwaves to detect missiles and block out interfering enemy signals.
“It’s a very simple idea that can be applied to the treatment of many different cancers, including breast cancer,” Fenn said.
The microwaves, delivered by two applicators placed near the breast, kill the cancerous tissue while preserving normal breast tissue by targeting tumor cells that contain high amounts of both water and ions, Fenn explained. When the microwave energy passes through the tumor, the water molecules begin to vibrate and generate heat through friction. This process eventually elevates the cancer cells to a “high fever” of at least 108 degrees Fahrenheit in most cases, killing them.
“The treatment is well tolerated,” said Dr. Mary Beth Tomaselli, medical director at Comprehensive Breast Center in Coral Springs, Fla., and a surgeon who was also a co-investigator in the study. “The patients who have gone through it had minimal side effects and positive results.”
This is the fourth clinical trial of the therapy since 1999. In a Phase-I safety trial using microwave heat alone, researchers found that both small and large breast tumors could be decreased in size between 30 and 60 percent. In a Phase-II dose-escalation trial for small tumors, scientists increased the amount of heat until 100 percent of the tumor cells were killed, prior to the patients’ receiving a lumpectomy.
Next, researchers treated similar early-stage tumors and noticed that after the surgical removal, none of the patients had tumor cells remaining at the edge of the incision. This is important because additional breast surgery and/or radiation therapy are often recommended for patients that have cancer cells close to the edge of the lumpectomy surgical margin.
Of note, Celsion Corporation is actively working on developing its propriety ThermoDox™ chemotherapy agent, a heat activated liposomal encapsulation of doxorubicin, a drug currently in Phase I studies for liver cancer and loco-regionally advanced recurrent breast cancer. The drug used in the trial was anthracycline.
MIT radar technology fights breast cancer …
The study: Study of preoperative focused microwave phased array thermotherapy in combination with neoadjuvant anthracycline-based chemotherapy for large breast carcinomas (.pdf) Cancer Therapy Vol 5, 401-408, 2007
Product page: ThermoDox™ …