Lifespan Cancer Institute

The History of Image-Guided Tumor Ablation (IGTA) at Lifespan

Image-guided tumor ablation was first approved in 1997 to treat liver tumors in patients who were considered ineligible for surgery. The early technology used radiofrequency energy to generate heat around an electrode that was placed directly into the tumor. In 1997, Rhode Island Hospital was one of the first centers in the United States to use this treatment, under the direction of Damian Dupuy, MD, FACR.

By 1998, the use of radiofrequency tumor ablation had been broadened at Rhode Island Hospital to treat tumors in bones, lungs, and kidneys as well. The early integration of ablation technology into oncology practice at Rhode Island Hospital provided a foundation for the Lifespan Cancer Institute to build upon. We continue to be at the forefront in advancing IGTA techniques. 

Radiofrequency ablation remained in widespread use at Rhode Island Hospital for nearly 12 years. Eventually, devices were developed that use microwave energy to generate heat over a much larger area. This improved the effectiveness of ablation therapy to treat even larger tumors. 

In 2003, Dr. Dupuy performed the first image-guided microwave ablation for lung cancer in a human. Since then, microwave ablation has largely replaced radiofrequency ablation in our practice for treatment of tumors in the lungs, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, and other soft tissues.

As tumor ablation technology continues to improve, its applications in treating cancer in minimally invasive ways are always expanding. Ultrasound-guided cryoablation is among the newest applications of IGTA at Lifespan. It uses extreme cold to freeze tumors as a treatment for early-stage breast cancer. This therapy is used for women older than 50 or those who cannot undergo surgery due to heart or lung problems that would make IV sedation too risky. Ultrasound-guided cryoablation can be performed to treat breast cancer in less than one hour of operating time, with only injections of local anesthetic to numb the skin and treatment site.

Learn about interventional oncology treatment techniques »