Ground Breaking Treatment at Springhill Medical Center Prevents Esophageal Cancer

January 21, 2014


     An outpatient treatment that destroys pre-cancerous tissue in the lining of the esophagus is now available at Springhill Medical Center.
     The procedure, endoscopic radiofrequency ablation therapy using the HALO System, was recently featured in the New England Journal of Medicine as a highly effective treatment for complete eradication of Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition that affects one to two million adults in the United States each year.
     An outpatient treatment that destroys pre-cancerous tissue in the lining of the esophagus is now available at Springhill Medical Center.
     The procedure, endoscopic radiofrequency ablation therapy using the HALO System, was recently featured in the New England Journal of Medicine as a highly effective treatment for complete eradication of Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition that affects one to two million adults in the United States each year.
     According to Michael Sanders, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Internal Medicine Center, who is specially trained in the ablation therapy, 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 presently the fastest growing form of cancer in the United States.
     “The main purpose of the ablation procedure is to remove the abnormal lining of the esophagus,” said Dr. Sanders. “The tissue then regenerates and normal tissue grows back. This eliminates, or markedly reduces, the chances of cancer developing. Data from studies shows that the treatment is highly effective. In fact, it looks very promising.”
     During the procedure, an ablation 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 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.
     For a person with Barrett’s disease, the risk of developing esophageal cancer may be 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 disease was “watchful waiting” or surveillance to monitor the progression of the disease. That was prior to the availability of the HALO System.
      “Previously we could use ablation therapy to remove or destroy pre-cancerous tissue, but the technology had limitations and wasn’t widely used,” said Dr. Sanders. “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’s also easier to effectively treat patients using the HALO System, without injuring healthy underlying tissue.”
     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 disease, which can lead to esophageal cancer,” Dr. Sanders said. “That’s why it’s important to seek medical treatment for symptoms of GERD, the most common being heartburn.”
     For more information or to receive a brochure on Barrett’s Esophagus and the HALO Ablation Technology, call Dr. Mike Sanders’ office at 251-414-5900. Or, find more information on the SMC website at www.springhillmedicalcenter.com