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Wheeling Hospital Only facility in West Virginia to Perform Cryosurgery for Treating Kidney Cancer

September 13, 2010

WHEELING, W.Va. – Continuing to stay on the leading edge of modern technology to best serve patients, Wheeling Hospital’s Schiffler Cancer Center is the only program in West Virginia now offering a new, minimally invasive therapy for treating kidney cancer.

Cryosurgery, also called cryoablation and cryotherapy, refers to the use of very cold temperatures to treat cancer and is a mainstay therapy for a wide variety of conditions. Cryosurgery is equivalent to surgical removal of part of the kidney for early stage kidney cancer.

“When you compare what we do at our Schiffler Cancer Center, we’re not only as good as, but often better than other cancer programs nationwide. The center works hard to ensure we offer the latest and most effective treatments to our patients,” said Ronald L. Violi, Wheeling Hospital chief executive officer.

Dr. Gregory Merrick, director of the Cryosurgery Services, Schiffler Cancer Center and the Urologic Research Institute, all at Wheeling Hospital, said, “I was once told that you’re only as good as your boss. And here at Wheeling Hospital our bosses are Ron Violi and Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

“These two men have provided us the opportunity to grow and spread our wings, and for that we all are grateful.”

Patients who undergo cryosurgery stay in the hospital the day of the minimally invasive procedure, and are discharged the next morning to return to normal activities. Surgical procedures to treat kidney cancer, however, often require that patients abstain from normal activities for six or more weeks.

“Kidney cancer cryosurgery eradicates the cancerous tissue by freezing it,” said Merrick. “Very precise image-guided targeting and control of the energy allows for efficient destruction of tumor cells while leaving healthy kidney tissue intact and functional.”

Wheeling Hospital’s cryosurgery team includes Merrick; the departments of Urology and Pathology; Dr. Vincent Caruso, interventional radiologist; and the Schiffler Cancer Center staff.

“The needle positioning to freeze the tumor is performed under CT scan and/or ultrasound. This allows us to accurately target the tumor and observe the freezing process during and after the cryoablation,” noted Caruso.

To freeze the cancer, special thin probes called cryoablation needles are placed into the tumor. Argon gas is delivered under pressure into a small chamber inside the tip of the needle where it expands and cools, reaching a temperature well below -100 degrees Celsius. This produces an ice ball of predictable size and shape around the needle.

The ice ball engulfs the tumor, killing the cancerous cells as well as a small margin of surrounding tissue while sparing healthy kidney structures. A double freeze-thaw cycle is favored, since studies suggest that consistently larger areas of cell death are achieved with a double cycle. Ultra-thin thermal sensors may also be placed at the margin of the tumor to monitor tissue temperature and help ensure that the entire tumor is destroyed.

“Renal cancer ablation using cryosurgery can be performed through several flexible approaches, so treatment can be customized by the physician to accommodate the patient’s general health as well as the size and location of the tumor,” Merrick said.

CT scan-guided cryosurgery for kidney cancer is a 1-2 hour procedure. The benefits of renal cancer ablation via cryosurgery are many. Recovery from minimally invasive surgery is often much easier for the patient. The procedure itself is shorter and therefore complications are reduced, including a lower risk of bleeding. Healthy kidney tissue is not disturbed, allowing for maximum retention of kidney function. Image guidance and real-time temperature monitoring usually allow for complete tumor removal in a single session, but the procedure can be repeated with minimal trauma to the patient if residual tumor is found.

Schiffler Cancer Center is a national leader in uro-oncology. It also is internationally recognized for prostate brachytherapy and nationally for IMRT and image guided IMRT using Calypso GPS software. The center pioneered transperineal prostate mapping to improve diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. Patients from 34 state and 14 foreign countries have been treated at Schiffler.

For more information on cryosurgery treatment, call the Schiffler Cancer Center at Wheeling Hospital at 304-243-3490.

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Contact: Gregg Warren, Vice President-Public Relations and Marketing
Wheeling Hospital

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