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Early Success Recorded with Lasers on Kidney, Liver Tumors

Laser beam pointed at camera (Nayu Kim)Physicians at Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville, Florida campus used a technique known as MRI-guided laser ablation to heat up and destroy kidney and liver tumors. So far, five patients have been successfully treated, which means no visible tumors remained after the procedure.

The physicians say the developmental-stage treatment is potentially beneficial against most tumors in the body — either primary or metastatic — as long as there are only a few in an organ and are each less than 5 centimeters or about 2 inches in diameter. Patients also cannot have a pacemaker or certain metallic implants, since the procedure is done inside an MRI machine.

In the U.S., laser ablation is used to treat brain, spine and prostate tumors, but is cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any soft tissue tumor. Only a few centers have adapted the technique to tumors outside of the brain.

Eric Walser, an interventional radiologist, learned the technique in Italy, where it is more common, and adapted it for patients at Mayo Clinic, Florida, many of whom are on a liver transplant waiting list. The clinic is also a center or liver transplants, and a number of patients with cirrhosis have small tumors in their liver.

David Woodrum, from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota has also reported success using the new technique. In March, he presented results from the first known cases of using MRI-guided laser ablation to treat prostate tumors on four clinical cases who had failed surgery.

Photo: Nayu Kim/Flickr

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