Health Check: New breast cancer clinical trial

Health Check: New breast cancer clinical trial. (NBC 10 Photo)

A new clinical trial looks to put breast cancers into the deep freeze; no cutting, no scar.

Rhode Island hospital is one of nine sites in the country, the only one in New England, recruiting women for the FROST clinical trial, to find out. FROST is an acronym for: freezing alone instead of resection of small breast tumors.

Dr. Robert Ward, a diagnostic radiologist at Rhode Island Hospital is performing these breast conserving procedures as part of the trial. He says it starts with a cryoablation device that contains what looks like a coffee thermos filled with liquid nitrogen.

A tube is connected to the device on one end and to a needle on the other end, which is placed, via ultrasound guidance, precisely through the cancerous tumor.

"And the liquid nitrogen causes extreme cold temperatures to form around the needle,” said Dr. Ward. “And we watch it in real time with ultrasound to watch essentially an ice ball grow around the lesion."

Essentially freezing the tumor to death. Very different than a lumpectomy.

"We’ve gotten to the point that we can potentially do something even less invasive, minimally invasive, an office based visit,” said Ward. “One that only requires lidocaine, no sedating medication, no anesthesia, no operating room time, nothing like that. Procedure is done entirely within 30 minutes and patients leave with a band aid.

Dr. Ward says he has performed this on two women in their 80’s so far in Southern New England as part of the FROST study, which he says is exciting.

"The clinical trial that this FROST trial is based on was done and published in 2016 and they showed that after treating 100 patients, all the tumors that were a centimeter in size or less--100 percent success rate."

And, he says, they were able to confirm these results performing a lumpectomy on these women. This trial is hoping to recruit 200 women, fifty and older with a small tumor. With this study, they're hoping to prove that less is more.

"It does have a psychological impact potentially for some patients,” said Ward. “The great thing about cryoablation is that you really don't have a scar.”

Those who take part in this clinical trial will be tracked for five years for recurrence rates or any adverse events.

For those interested in taking part locally you can contact Liz Morrell at 401-444-2277 (Office) or 774-991-1163 (Cell). You can also email her at

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