RFA targets head and neck tumors

November 1, 2002

Radio-frequency ablation of unresectable hepatic and renal tumors has achieved considerable success, but the technique has not been widely tested in other organs. RFA may considerably reduce the size of advanced tumors in the mouth and throat and alleviate pain, according to a pioneering study by a New York City group.

Radio-frequency ablation of unresectable hepatic and renal tumors has achieved considerable success, but the technique has not been widely tested in other organs. RFA may considerably reduce the size of advanced tumors in the mouth and throat and alleviate pain, according to a pioneering study by a New York City group.

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Montefiore Medical Center treated seven tumors in six patients in a preliminary report published in the August issue of Head and Neck. Tumor size ranged from 2 to 15 cm, with masses located on the tongue, oropharynx, neck, and elsewhere. All patients reported significant pain relief. Given the tumors' locations, ultrasound wasn't nearly as useful as a laryngoscope for guiding treatment, but MR and CT identified tumors and guided planning for the procedures. Here, CT shows a peritonsillar mass. While the procedure has proved safe so far, collateral damage to surrounding tissue and cranial nerves remains a concern. Though RFA is for now a palliative measure, it could turn out to be a curative technique, the authors said.