News | August 25, 2010

Mayo Clinic Doctors Plant the Seeds of Success in Cancer Surgery

August 25, 2010 - A new technique that combines advanced radiologic imaging with precise tumor localization to remove a cancer in its entirety and with minimal disturbance to surrounding organs is available.

As reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Surgical Radiology, surgeons and radiologists at the Mayo Clinic have collaborated on an approach that uses tiny radioactive seeds implanted at the time of diagnosis. Surgeons can then use a handheld radiation detector (gamma probe) to precisely locate these seeds at the time of surgery and thereby remove the cancer safely and effectively, virtually without damaging tissues and organs near the affected area.

“RSL (radioactive seed localization) is a safe, accurate, and effective technique,” according to Dr. James Jakub, the senior author of the study and a surgeon at Mayo Clinic. “RSL has the potential to be adapted to most lesions amenable to a percutaneous (under the skin) approach.”

This advance in technology can be applied to a wide variety of cancers. For example, metastatic melanoma deposits scattered throughout the body can be identified by imaging studies and seeds implanted via CT-guided or ultrasound-guided techniques. Surgeons can then precisely locate these tumor deposits and remove them without significantly disturbing nearby vital structures.

Radioactive seed localization is also a flexible technology. It can be completed at the same time that other imaging studies are done. Surgeons then have up to five days to identify these seeds and excise the tumor. The radiation dose from the seeds is so negligible that surgeons removing the tumor need no extra protective covering.

The early results of the study demonstrate complete destruction of the metastasized tissues with no mortality and only two minor postsurgical infections. The scheduling of the placement of the seed need not be done on the same day as the PET and/or CT scans are performed, thereby maximizing convenience to the patient without sacrificing clinical outcome.

Radioactive seed localization offers the potential to change the way complex tumors are treated, owing to its safety, convenience to the patient, relatively low dose of radiation administered and success in excising the entire affected tissue.

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