Low-Cost Tissue Freezing Device to Help In Breast Cancer Treatment
Students of John Hopkins
University have created a new low-cost device that will become a boon for women
suffering from breast cancer in low-income countries.
The tissue-freezing probe uses cryoablation, a method that kills cancerous tissue by exposing it to extremely cold temperatures, and employs carbon dioxide, a widely available and affordable alternative to argon, the current industry standard.
A study detailing the tool's success in animal studies was published this month in PLOS One.
“Innovation in cancer care doesn't always mean you have to create an entirely new treatment," ays Bailey Surtees, a recent Johns Hopkins University biomedical engineering graduate and the study's first author. "Sometimes it means radically innovating on proven therapies such that they're redesigned to be accessible to the majority of the world's population."
While the survival rate for women with breast cancer in the United States is greater than 90%, it is the largest cause of cancer-related mortality for women across the globe and disproportionately affects women in lower-income countries, where treatment options are scarce. Survival rates for women with breast cancer in Saudi Arabia, Uganda, and The Gambia are just 64%, 46%, and 12%, respectively.
In lower-income countries, the main barriers to treating breast cancer are inadequate treatment options. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are often impractical or too expensive, and women in remote areas have long travel times to regional hospitals. Even if a woman is able to travel to a hospital for treatment, she may not be seen, and recovery times will keep her out of work for an additional few weeks.
Cryoablation is an optimal treatment option in these countries because it eliminates the need for a sterile operating room and anesthesia, thus making it possible for local clinics to perform the procedure. It's also minimally invasive, thereby reducing complications such as pain, bleeding, and extended recovery time.
Current cryoablation technologies, however, are expensive, with a single treatment costing more than $10,000. The devices rely on argon gas, which typically isn't available in lower-income countries, to form the tissue-killing ice crystals.