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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effect of thermal variables on human breast cancer in cryosurgery


There is a growing interest in the use of cryosurgery to treat breast cancer, following recent breakthroughs in non-invasive imaging and in cryotechnology, as well as the recent success of cryosurgery in treating various types of cancer. However, since haphazard freezing does not guarantee tissue destruction, in order to apply this technique effectively it is essential to determine the thermal parameters that produce complete destruction of malignant tissue. This study seeks to quantitatively identify the relationship between thermal variables and the degree of freezing damage to human breast cancer cells. In order to do this, human breast cancer and normal cells were frozen with controlled thermal parameters using a directional solidification apparatus. Cell viability was determined after thawing using trypan blue, and correlated to the thermal variables used during freezing. Cellular damage is observed to increase with increasing cooling rates, due to the higher probability of intracellular ice formation. A double freeze thaw cycle significantly increases the extent of cell damage, and is sufficient to ensure complete cell destruction at final freezing temperatures of −40°c for a 25°c/min cooling rate, and −20°C for a 50°C/min cooling rate. The correlations between cell death and thermal parameters are qualitatively identical for all the cell types in this study, although there is some variation from one cell type to another in the overall susceptibility to freezing damage. The correlations established in this study can be used to design systematic and optimal breast cryosurgery protocols.

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