News Center

Thursday, December 13, 2012

High-end technology used at St. Francis Health prevents esophageal cancer

INDIANAPOLIS – An outpatient treatment that destroys pre-cancerous tissue in the lining of the esophagus is being used by physicians at Franciscan St. Francis Health–Indianapolis.

The procedure, endoscopic radiofrequency ablation therapy using the HALO System, is a highly effective treatment for complete eradication of Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition that affects three million adults in the United States each year. Esophageal cancer is presently the fastest growing form of cancer in the country.

“Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the esophagus is chronically exposed to gastric acid of the stomach caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD,” said Brian Sperl, MD, with Indianapolis Gastroenterology and Hepatology. “With prolonged acid exposure, normal cells in the esophagus can undergo a genetic change and are then vulnerable to further changes that can lead to cancer.”

During the procedure, a catheter (HALO360 or HALO90 Ablation Catheter) is positioned on the abnormal esophageal tissue. Using the HALO Energy Generator, the physician delivers a rapid burst of energy which removes a very thin layer of the diseased tissue.

The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting, without incisions, and usually takes less than 30 minutes.

“The main purpose of the ablation procedure is to ablate, or remove the abnormal lining of the esophagus,” Sperl said. “The tissue then regenerates and normal tissue grows back. This eliminates or markedly reduces the chances of cancer developing.”

For a person with Barrett’s esophagus, Sperl said the risk of developing esophageal cancer is similar to the risk of developing colon cancer for patients who have a colon polyp. However, unlike a colon polyp which is removed immediately upon diagnosis through a colonoscopy, the standard treatment for Barrett’s esophagus was “watchful waiting” or surveillance to monitor the progression of the disease.

With the HALO System, clinicians can be proactive in treating Barrett’s esophagus just as they are with colon polyp removal.

“Previously we could use ablation therapy to remove or destroy pre-cancerous tissue, but the technology had limitations and wasn’t widely used,” said Sperl. “The HALO System provides uniform and controlled ablative therapy, which not only removes the abnormal cells but also allows for regrowth of normal cells. It also effectively treats patients without injuring healthy underlying tissue.”

Individuals with Barrett’s esophagus have a 40 to130 times higher incidence of developing esophageal cancer than those without the condition. Sperl said esophageal cancer is often incurable because the disease is frequently discovered in the advanced stages.

Esophageal cancer has a five-year patient survival rate of just 16 percent.

“It usually starts with GERD, which can cause Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer,” Sperl said. “That’s why it’s important to seek medical treatment for symptoms of GERD, the most common being heartburn.”