CAESAREA, ISRAEL (REUTERS) – When Nelida Ivaldi was diagnosed with a tumour in her breast, she was terrified of what she thought was going to be a long, painful treatment. But after undergoing cryoablation therapy to freeze her tumour, she was surprised by how quick and painless the whole thing was.
“It’s fantastic, I don’t have words to express to you what a relief it is that they didn’t have to cut me. The worse nightmare for me is that they have to cut me. Anywhere, especially not my breast,” said 79-year-old Ivaldi, who had two unrelated bouts of breast cancer in the past three years, both treated with an innovative cryoablation technology.
“It didn’t hurt, it didn’t bother me at all,” she said while chatting with Dr. Andrew Kenler who treated her in his U.S. clinic in the Connecticut town of Trumbull.
Ivaldi, a retired teacher, took part in clinical trials for a new treatments that allow the ablation of some breast cancer tumours within a 20-30 minute-session. It was a minimally invasive procedure developed by Israeli company IceCure.
A metal probe is inserted into the breast and then freezes only the targeted tissue, leaving healthy tissues unharmed and a tiny scar that heals within days. As it requires nothing more than an ultrasound, IceCure’s device and local anesthetizia, it can be performed in any clean room and the patient can go back to her normal life as soon as the treatment is over.
“This is complete revolution,” said Elisabeth Sadka, IceCure’s Vice President Quality Assurance (and) Regulatory Affairs (VP QA RA) Clinical. During an interview in the company’s offices in Caeserea she explained how the their technology is a better solution for tumours, which would otherwise be treated with a costly operation that leaves patients in pain and scarred for life.
“For the first time, there is a company that says: Breast cancer, some breast cancer, specific breast cancer, could be treated without surgery, only with a minimal invasive that is very very similar to a biopsy,” Sadka said.
In October 2018, the American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBS) updated its guidelines to recommend that surgeons take part in clinical trials for treating malignant breast tumours. This followed the publication in May of IceCure’s results of latest clinical trials on 146 patients in 18 leading US hospitals and clinics, with only one case of recurrence.
In Japan, over 200 women participated in clinical trials and showed recurrence rate of less than 1% over a three to five years of follow up.
Recent publications also boosted interest in IceCure among members of the medical community, as well as among patients, said Eyal Shamir, IceCure’s CEO.
Shamir told Reuters that the market for such therapy could reach $800 million in 2018 and expect it to reach a value of some $2 billion by 2025.
IceCure’s treatment costs around $4,000 which is about a third of the cost of an average mastectomy surgery, Shamir said, so it allows a significant cut in costs in addition to the benefits to patients.
The treatment is already commercially available for patients outside clinical trials in Israel, the U.S., Japan, Mexico and several European countries.
“With a portable ultrasound and with our device, you could go to “nowhere”, in Africa and in India and in China and in other third-world countries, that you can not do the surgery,” he said.