Freezing Breast Cancer Cells May Prove Effective in Minimally Invasive Subtypes

Researchers have begun examining the latest round of studies for a minimally invasive breast cancer therapy freezing the cancer cells as a means of killing the tumor.

Andrew Kenler, MD

Researchers have begun examining the latest round of studies for a minimally invasive breast cancer therapy—freezing the cancer cells as a means of killing the tumor. The ICE Trial,3being conducted at various locations across the United States, aims to destroy tumors of up to 1.5 cm in patients with favorable or less aggressive breast cancer.1

The nonsurgical procedure relies on the use of cryoablation in treating patients of at least 65 years of age or older and who have been diagnosed with luminal A breast carcinoma. Cryoablation is the use of extreme cold to destroy damaged tissue and has been recorded for use in patients with prostate, lung, and kidney cancer for several decades. Studies have been conducted regarding its specific use among fibroadenomas since 1999.2

The most recent generation of technology uses liquid nitrogen for the cryoablation process. A cryoprobe is inserted through a nominal 3-mm skin incision and is targeted specifically for the specific fibroadenoma located beforehand through digital imaging or mammograms. The technology’s ability to execute targeted cryoablation minimizes potential damage to surrounding healthy breast tissue.2The insertion of the liquid nitrogen forms an ice ball around the tumor that transitions through several phases, most of which simply include a cycle of freezing, thawing out, and freezing again.3

According to Andrew Kenler, MD, Northeast Medical Group in Trumbull, CT, the quick heat exchange improves cell death and allows the body eliminate dead cells, a process that already happens naturally.3

However, the duration of the procedure depends upon the size of the tumor, though no procedure requires more than about 15 minutes. A 1-cm ice ball may only take an estimated 3 minutes for treatment while an ice ball of nearly 4 cm may require a 12-minute treatment.2

Researchers assert that there are several anticipated benefits to the trial and widespread use of cryoablation in breast cancer therapy, including low costs in comparison to historical surgical treatment plans and quick treatment times that can be done in a physician’s office with local anesthetics and ultrasounds.1

Cryoablation additionally leaves the patients with minimal cosmetic impact in terms of little to no scaring or permanent disfigurement because the procedure does not remove any tissue. Kenler added that little scaring allows doctors to have a better look at the affected area down the road if the cancer were to return.3

In a clinical case study concerning a 30-year-old female with a painful, palpable fibroadenoma, researchers noted that the patient experienced anticipated mild soreness in the inflicted area after the procedure but was able to return to work the following morning. Follow-up treatment for the patient requires a check-in and surveillance ultrasound within a year’s time, where the size and palpability of the affected area is expected to improve over time.2

Studies indicate that fibroadenomas of less than 2 cm are nonpalpable 86% of the time within a 12-month span and that average volumes of the ablation zones decreased by 75% within the same time frame.2

The ICE3trials will be held in 20 different locations across the United States and will use the IceSense3cryoablation system consoles that have already been installed in physician’s offices.


  1. IceCure Medical.Breast Cancer - IceCure Medical. 2015. Accessed October 26, 2015.
  2. Case Study: Cryoablation of fibroadenoma.Breast Health Options. Accessed October 26, 2015.
  3. Maminta J. Freezing breast cancer cells to fill the tumor.WTNH Connecticut News2015. Accessed October 26, 2015.