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Radiofrequency Ablation Offers Cancer Patients Pain Relief Within Three Days


Non-invasive treatment offers pain relief for more than a year – an improvement over radiation therapy.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) can non-invasively provide pain relief in as little as three days – and last for more than a year – to patients whose cancer has spread to their bones.

In doing so, RFA is a significant improvement over radiation treatment, according to researchers from Northside Hospital in Atlanta. They will discuss the efficacy of this palliative treatment next week during the Society of Interventional Radiology Annual Scientific Meeting.

“Commonly used radiation treatments can take weeks to provide pain relief,” said lead researchers Jason R. Levy, M.D., a vascular and interventional radiologist at Northside Hospital. “A few weeks can represent a large portion of the remaining life in these patients, and RFA may be able to give them the best quality of life possible in the time they have left.”

As a treatment, RFA uses radiofrequency waves to generate heat that can kill tumor cells and destroy nerve fibers, decreasing or limiting pain signal transmission to the brain. In this study, providers used it to treat painful metastatic bone lesions, following up with a cement injection that stabilized the bones by preventing fractures frequently caused by radiation.

For their analysis, investigators enrolled 218 cancer patients from 15 sites worldwide between October 2017 and February 2020. They focused on lytic bone metastases, a common bone tumor type, so their results would be applicable to a wider group of cancer patients. The most common cancer types included in the study were breast, lung, and kidney, the team said.

Participants completed several questionnaires (both the EurolQol and EORTC Qol surveys) about their quality of life and pain levels – prior to the procedures, three days post-procedure, and intermittently until the one-year mark.

Based on patient responses, 59 individuals reported significant improvements at 12 months via the EuroQol, and 14 patients reported similar outcomes for the same timeframe with EORTC Qol. The team noted they were unable to survey all patients for the entire year as RFA is a palliative therapy.

“What set our results apart from prior research is the sheer speed and durability of this treatment,” Levy said. “As a result, we believe this treatment should be available to more patients with metastatic cancer earlier in their treatment path.”

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