A cryoablation probe for breast cancer, which uses carbon dioxide instead of argon, has been developed by Undergraduate researchers at John Hopkins University. This has made it a lot more affordable and accessible for low resources regions, places where treatment for women suffering from breast cancer is difficult and scarce. Places like the Gambia have a survival rate for breast cancer patients, as low as 12%, while a striking contrast can be seen in places like the United States where the survival rate for such patients is as much as 90%.
In poorer countries or remote, women have to travel long distances to find a regional hospital that can offer any help, and in many cases the treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery are very expensive or impractical. Thus, a demand to address these issues is high.
In efforts of finding solutions that can be applicable in the local clinics of such areas, the group of undergraduate researchers set out to adapt an existing cancer treatment, cryotherapy. The idea was to make it more suitable for low resource context. This particular cancer treatment was chosen as it does not require a sterile surgical suite or anesthesia, however; the issue was that it could still be expensive as it typically requires a source of argon gas, which is difficult to find in low-resource areas.
While Argon gas has its set of limitations, the researchers decided to substitute it with a widely available option of Carbon dioxide which is used in carbonated soft drinks and as a cheap way of keeping things frozen worldwide. Nicholas Durr, a researcher involved in the project shared that when they began their work on this project, they were told that it was impossible to ablate meaningful tissue volumes with carbon dioxide. He further said that such a mindset may have originated from both the momentum of the field and also from not thinking about the significance of driving down the cost of this treatment. On testing carbon dioxide-powered cryoablation device in rats with mammary tumors, the team found that a minimum of 85% of the tumor tissue could be killed. This proved that there is great promise in treating human breast cancer as well. Naturally, further optimization of the device remains before it can be rolled out for clinical use.
Gaurang Taylor is an MD/MBA candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Harvard Business School. He contributes regularly to CardioSource World News and Emergency Physicians Monthly. He is interested in developing scalable, tech-based solutions for medicine and education. He loves to share his knowledge and recent trends in the Healthcare Department by posting various articles. He has experience in medical device pathways and is passionate about understanding the human body.