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Ablative Oncology: Conditions & Treatments

The UCI Health Ablative Oncology Center is one of the first multidisciplinary centers in the nation—and the only one in Orange County—to harness the expertise of surgeons, vascular and interventional radiologists and other medical professionals to deliver the least invasive therapies to destroy cancer.

Recent technological advances make it possible to treat many more diseases and conditions with heat or extreme cold to kill malignant cells in the body. Treatments destroy—or ablate—tumors while leaving normal structures intact.

The therapies, which include percutaneous (nonsurgical) ablation and embolization, offer UCI Health patients a high degree of accuracy, effectiveness and safety.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Ablative Oncology Center physicians, please call us at 714-456-7005.

Radiology services

Our vascular and interventional radiologists treat a variety of conditions with ablative methods, including benign and malignant tumors, hydronephrosis, biliary obstructions, vascular obstructions and venous thrombosis.

The ablative technologies we use include:
  • Cryoablation
  • Embolization
  • Irreversible electroporation (NanoKnife®)
  • Microwave ablation
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

Our vascular and interventional radiologists also specialize in ablative therapies for noncancerous conditions, including uterine fibroids. Using a technique called uterine artery embolization, we are able to reduce the size of fibroid tumors and, in many cases, eliminate them by starving them of blood. This eliminates the need for hysterectomies and open surgery for many women.

Our vascular and interventional radiologists also conduct the imaging procedures during ablative procedures performed by other center physicians.

Kidney services

Kidney tumors are one of many types of cancer that can be eradicated using cold energy (cryoablation) or heat energy (radiofrequency ablation). Delivered by probes inserted through the skin, these methods are the least invasive technologies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat kidney tumors.

We use both treatments at the UCI Health Ablative Oncology Center, but kidney cancer specialists increasingly regard percutaneous cryoablation as the safer, more effective technology.

Promising results

Data gathered from several large medical centers indicates that percutaneous cryoablation has successfully treated kidney cancer in about 95 percent of patients. However, 10-year, follow-up data is not yet available. For that reason, cryoablation is not usually performed on very young patients. In general, cryoablation also is not recommended for treatment of tumors larger than four centimeters (1 3/4 inches) in diameter.

Good candidates

Cryoablation is a good option for the following types of cancer patients:

  • Slightly older patients who may have related medical problems

The procedure is typically associated with very little bleeding, fewer complications and faster recovery, and patients are able to go home the same day or after a brief overnight stay. This puts less strain on people with related health issues.

  • Patients with more than one tumor 

Multiple needle-tipped probes can be placed in directly in each tumor site without damaging the rest of the kidney. Patients with inherited conditions such as Von Hippel-Lindau disease often have multiple tumors in one or both kidneys.

  • Patients with poor kidney function or only one kidney

Other more invasive techniques, such as open and laparoscopic partial nephrectomy to remove the disease portion of the kidney, require the surgeon to temporarily block the blood supply to the kidney, which may impair organ function.

Liver services

Our skilled UCI Health liver cancer specialists are experienced in a variety of ablative procedures. These include radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and cryosurgery.

  • In RFA, extremely thin needles are precisely guided into the tumor with the aid of ultrasound imaging or a computed tomography (CT) scanner.

Once placed in the tumor, the probes are heated with an electrical current that destroys malignant cells. This procedure can be done percutaneously (through the skin), laparoscopically (through a small incision) or with standard open surgery.

  • Cryosurgery involves inserting thin needle-like probes into the tumor, guided by advanced ultrasound imaging.

An ice ball of liquid nitrogen is introduced into the tumor, destroying the tissue with extreme cold. Cryoablation, performed percutaneously or laparoscopically, may be used in combination with other standard treatments for liver cancer. It also may be an option for patients with tumors that are otherwise inoperable.

Lung and pleura services

Our cardiothoracic specialists offer patients the latest and least invasive treatments to destroy lung cancers and pleural disease.

Among the conditions our ablative cardiothoracic specialists treat are:

  • Primary lung cancer 

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is the most frequently used ablative treatment for primary lung cancer in patients who aren’t able to undergo surgical resection, either because they lack adequate pulmonary reserves or have major complicating conditions.

An experienced team of interventional radiologists and thoracic surgeons work together to locate the tumor with advanced imaging scans. A probe inserted into the tumor delivers heat to destroy the cancer cells with minimal effect on surrounding tissue.

Patients who undergo RFA ablation often can go home the same day or after a brief overnight stay to ensure there are no complications.

  • Pleural tumors (including mesothelioma)

Our specialists are also investigating the use of cryoablation to destroy malignant mesothelioma or other pleural tumors, combined with standard surgical debulking procedures.

  • Pulmonary metastasis (from primary malignancies including sarcomas, gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers)

The center's specialists also perform minimally invasive radiofrequency or microwave ablation of metastatic lung lesions on patients who are not candidates for surgical or radiation therapy.

Musculoskeletal services

Our UCI Health orthopaedic surgeons work closely with our vascular and interventional radiologists to provide the least invasive therapies and palliative relief for patients with malignancies of the bone.

We treat the following musculoskeletal conditions with a variety of ablative therapies:

  • Osteoid osteoma — radiofrequency ablation (RFA) 
  • Pelvic bone metastasis — cryoablation, RFA and bone cement injection 
  • Spinal metastasis — radiofrequency co-ablation and cement injection, followed by intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) 
  • Bone metastasis from renal cancer and giant cell tumor — embolization 
  • Benign bone cyst — aspiration followed by bone matrix injection

Prostate services

The precision made possible by percutaneous cryosurgery is ideal for treating some prostate cancers, especially those that are tightly confined within the prostate and surrounded by nerves that affect urinary control and erectile function.

For patients with such localized cancers, cryoablation is regarded as an effective alternative to radiation therapy.

However, if a patient’s prostate is enlarged, UCI Health urologists may recommend a course of hormonal therapy to reduce the gland's size before considering cryosurgery. Even with multiple cryoprobes, it is difficult to complete freeze a prostate larger than 50 centimeters.

Our UCI Health urologists also are skilled in ablative treatments for benign prostate enlargement, including button plasma vaporization of the benign prostate. They also perform minimally invasive robot-assisted prostatectomy for enlarged prostates.


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