Heating up breast tissue with microwave technology boosts the power of chemotherapy and shrinks cancerous tumors, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center researchers say. The finding means that more women with late-stage breast cancer may avoid losing breasts to mastectomy, said Dr. William Dooley, a researcher at the OU Cancer Institute and director of surgical oncology at OU Medicine. He said patient trials at OU and across the country are showing promising results from the technique, which was tried on tumors larger than an inch and reduced the need for mastectomies by almost 90 percent. Called focused microwave technology, it uses a modified version of Star Wars defense system technology. More patient trials are planned later this year. "This therapy is a major advancement for women with later-stage breast cancer,” Dooley said. "Right now most patients with large tumors lose their breast. With this treatment, along with chemotherapy, we were able to kill the cancer and save the breast tissue.” Dooley said microwave heat of up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit is targeted at breast tissue. "For some reason, we are uncertain still, cancer cells are very sensitive to microwave-generated heat,” he said. "We are ramping up the kill within the microwave field.” Still, some women and some tumors see better results than others. Finding out why will be part of additional patient trials involving thousands of women. The technique also will be tried on larger breast tumors and by using nanotechnology to precisely target cancer cells. Dooley said that the technology is likely to work with other types of cancer, as well. Ellen Hopper, a cancer patient from Tuttle, was part of earlier trials testing the technology. She’s now cancer-free. Hopper, a registered nurse who works at OU Medical Center, said treatments that spare patients’ breasts are welcomed. "I think it’s very important for your image, for how you feel about your body,” she said.
Dates and locations
• Wednesday, OU Breast Institute, OU Physician’s Building, 825 NE 10
• Jan. 25 and Feb. 15, Baptist Community Clinic, Olivet Baptist Church, 1201 NW 10
• Jan. 26 and Feb. 3 and 9, OU College of Nursing, 1100 N Stonewall Ave.
• Jan. 28 and Feb. 19, Latina-Ramirez Center, 222 NW 12
• Feb. 2, Dr. Bruce Bell’s office, 4200 S May Ave.
• Feb. 11, Clinica de la Mujer Latina, 420 SW 10