Cryotherapy was first used to treat cancer in the 1850s. Since then, its therapeutic effects have benefited individuals with many different cancers.1 This treatment involves rapidly cooling tissue to a lethal temperature, slowly thawing it, and repeating the process. Cryotherapy is currently being studied for its potential to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Freezing and Thawing the Cancer
Cryotherapy delivers liquid nitrogen or argon gas through a needle, known as a cryoprobe, to target cancerous tissue with intensely cold temperatures. The treatment is guided with ultrasound imaging to avoid harming healthy tissue. Researchers have found that cancer cells are particularly susceptible to freezing injury. The freezing and thawing process works to damage cancerous cells and cut off the blood supply vital to their survival. Cryotherapy may confer an additional benefit of strengthening the immune system’s cancer-fighting cells.
Benefits and Advantages of Cancer Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy is an effective form of targeted cancer treatment. It has even been successful in treating recurrent tumors. Unlike some cancer therapies like chemotherapy, cryotherapy has few side effects and poses little threat to the surrounding healthy tissue. Moreover, cryotherapy is a less invasive alternative to other localized cancer therapies, such as surgery. It is also a much quicker treatment, usually only requiring half an hour to complete. These benefits and advantages of cryotherapy make it an excellent treatment option for individuals seeking effective but less aggressive treatment.
Cryotherapy for Mesothelioma
Cryotherapy is an emerging treatment for mesothelioma. Clinical trials have studied its use in patients with recurrent, localized malignant pleural mesothelioma.2 The downside of using cryotherapy to treat mesothelioma is that cryotherapy is only effective in treating localized disease. As mesothelioma is an aggressive, rapidly spreading cancer, cryotherapy must be performed early in the disease course for it to be successful.
Ongoing studies are being performed to enhance current cryotherapy applications and develop new ones. Such studies are critical in improving survival and quality of life for individuals with mesothelioma. With future research, we may even find a cure for the disease.