Although the risk for developing the cancer is about one in 75, Georgiades and his team point out that 75 percent of kidney cancer diagnoses are made while the tumor is still relatively small and potentially most responsive to cryoablation.
For their study, the researchers tracked the success of cryoablation in tackling 73 renal-mass tumors, 10 of them benign, in 68 people who averaged 67 years old. CT or MRI imaging was done three, six and 12 months after the procedure to assess tumor status. Participants were followed for two to three years.
They found that cryoablation destroyed localized tumors up to 4 centimeters in diameter 100 percent of the time. Tumors up to 7 centimeters in size (about 3 inches) were destroyed "nearly" 100 percent of the time, and in the few cases in which tumor size was large -- about 10 centimeters, or roughly 4 inches, in diameter -- cryoablation was successful two-thirds of the time, the study found.
There was no evidence of any cancerous spread to areas outside the kidney during follow-up, the authors noted.
In the second Hopkins study, researchers spent up to two years tracking complications after cryoablation among 73 people who had 81 procedures. No treatment-related deaths occurred, and though there were complications in just over 7 percent of the cases, the team concluded that the technique has an "excellent safety profile."
Despite the findings, Georgiades said, problems with tumor location mean that there will always be people who need surgery.
"The great success we had with cryoablation assumes that not only is the tumor small enough but also that we can successfully get to it from the outside with probes," he explained. "So tumors that are too deep or too close to vital organs might not be targetable," he said, noting that no such patients were included in the st
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