Ice could be the next frontier in breast cancer therapy, according to new research from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

In breast cancer patients, cold therapy was shown to be effective in freezing and destroying small, cancerous tumors in a study presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology Annual Scientific Meeting in Salt Lake City last week. 

Cryoablation, a minimally invasive technique, could provide a treatment alternative for patients who are not candidates for surgery, a press release stated.

The study evaluated 60 patients who received cryoablation because they were not candidates for surgery or refused surgery due to age, cardiac issues, hypertension or current chemotherapy treatments.

Among the participants, only 10% experienced a recurrence of cancer within a 16-month period.

“Traditionally, the standard of care for patients with breast cancer is to have surgery to remove the tumor – especially if the cancer is localized to the breast and has not spread to other parts of the body,” said Dr. Yolanda Bryce, interventional radiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who was involved in the research.

But for some patients — those who are older, have certain medical conditions or take blood thinners — surgery may not be an option.

Cryoablation uses an ultrasound or a computed tomography (CT) scan to locate tumors, according to the release. 

Next, a radiologist inserts small, needle-like probes into the breast to create an “ice ball” that surrounds the tumor — and kills the cancer cells. 

When combined with hormonal therapy and radiation, it’s possible for nearly 100% of tumors to be destroyed, according to researchers. 

“For a long time, cryoablation has been used to treat smaller breast tumors (classified as under 1.5 cm), but this study shows that cryoablation can actually be effective for patients with larger tumors as well,” Bryce told Fox News Digital.

When evaluating whether a patient is a good candidate for cryoablation, Bryce said she looks at each patient’s treatment on a case-by-case basis. 

“Sometimes my aim is to eradicate the whole tumor,” she said. “These patients are often easier to treat because they have a tumor where I can create a big enough ice ball that engulfs the tumor without damaging the skin. But sometimes the tumor has spread to the skin, which I find most challenging to treat.”

The biggest risk of the procedure is potential injury or damage to the skin, which can cause a “skin freezer burn,” said Bryce. 

The few patients who have had these complications were successfully and effectively treated with a skin ointment and pain control, she added.

Looking ahead, the researchers aim to conduct larger studies of the potential benefits of cryoablation for breast cancer patients.

They will continue to follow the patients to collect data on the long-term effectiveness of the therapy, and to better understand the impact of hormone therapy and radiation therapies combined with cryoablation, they said.

If a patient is not a surgical candidate or does not want to have surgery due to medical or personal reasons, Bryce recommends asking a breast surgeon, medical oncologist or radiation oncologist to be referred to someone who does cryoablation. 

“This technique is not recommended for everyone, but patients can always have a consultation to see if they are eligible.”

Nicole B. Saphier, M.D., associate professor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, director of breast imaging at Memorial Sloan Kettering in Monmouth, New Jersey, and a Fox News medical contributor, was not directly involved in the research but weighed in on this treatment alternative.

“At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, we have been using cryoablation for not only breast cancer, but also other cancers, with good results,” she told Fox News Digital. 

“Surgical removal remains the gold standard for treating breast cancer.”

“This is an important technique, especially for patients who are poor surgical candidates from other factors, such as age and chronic illness, because it is minimally invasive and does not require general anesthesia.”

Both experts agree that surgery is still the best option for breast cancer treatment.

“Surgical removal remains the gold standard for treating breast cancer, with robust research supporting it,” Saphier said. 

“Ongoing research at Memorial Sloan Kettering and across the nation will help determine if the use of cryoablation can be expanded to others without forgoing quality.”

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