Machine looks to stop esophageal cancer
August 20, 2013 10:55 AM
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An outpatient treatment that destroys precancerous tissue in the lining of the esophagus is now available at Indiana Regional Medical Center.

According to a press release from the medical center, the procedure — endoscopic radiofrequency ablation therapy using the BARRX Halo System — was recently featured in the New England Journal of Medicine as a highly e­ffective treatment for complete eradication of Barrett’s esophagus.

Barrett’s is a precancerous condition that affects 1 to 2 million adults in the United States each year.

Dr. Shirish Amin, a gastroenterologist on the medical sta­ff at IRMC who is specially trained in the ablation therapy, explained Barrett’s disease occurs when the esophagus is chronically exposed to gastric contents of the stomach caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD. 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.

Individuals with Barrett’s esophagus have a 40 to 130 times higher incidence of developing esophageal cancer than those without the condition. Esophageal cancer is currently the fastest-growing form of cancer in the United States.

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

During the procedure, an ablation catheter (Halo360 or Halo90 Ablation Catheter) is positioned on the abnormal esophageal tissue. Using the BARRX Energy Generator, the physician delivers a rapid burst of ablative energy which removes a very thin layer of the diseased esophagus. The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting, without incisions and takes less than 30 minutes on average.

Dr. Mary Ann Barnicle, who is also specially trained in the ablation therapy, said that for a person with Barrett’s disease, 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, prior to the availability of the BARRX System the standard treatment for Barrett’s disease was “watchful waiting” or surveillance to monitor the progression of the disease.

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

According to Barnicle, esophageal cancer is often incurable because the disease is frequently discovered in the advanced stages. Esophageal cancer has a patient survival rate of just 16 percent.

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

Barnicle will be speaking about this issue at an educational presentation in September. Please call the Institute for Healthy Living to reserve your seat at (724) 357-8088.

For more information or to receive a brochure on Barrett’s Esophagus and the BARRX Halo Ablation Technology, call Indiana Regional Medical Center at (724) 357-7000.

PHOTO:   Dr. Mary Ann Barnicle displayed some of the new equipment that Indiana Regional Medical Center has to treat Barrett’s esophagus. (Tom Peel/Gazette photo)



The symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus — a condition that is often a precursor to cancer of the esophagus — can include:

• Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD)

• Heartburn

• Difficulty swallowing

• Sore throat

• Regurgitation

• Acid reflux

• Chronic cough

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