UofL Physicians' Dr. Coldwell performs innovative interventional oncology procedure on first U.S. patient

Published on March 14, 2012

Douglas Coldwell, M.D., recently performed a procedure at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center using the Spinal Tumor Ablation with Radiofrequency (STAR™) System on the first U.S. patient. The landmark therapy offers a new treatment for spine tumors.

"It has made a world of difference for our patient," said Dr. Coldwell, an interventional radiologist with University of Louisville Physicians and director of vascular and interventional radiology at University of Louisville Hospital/James Graham Brown Cancer Center, who performed the first procedure. "Shortly after the treatment, Joseph Wagoner’s mobility improved, and just hours after the outpatient procedure, his pain was significantly reduced. Due to this treatment, he will be more comfortable with additional therapy for his primary cancer." The targeted delivery of RF energy has the potential to provide the fastest relief from painful metastatic spine tumors. "We are pleased to be the first U. S. center to offer this revolutionary therapy," said Dr. Coldwell.

Joseph Wagoner, age 54, is currently in treatment for pain associated with lung cancer. He sought out Dr. Coldwell’s expertise complaining of “unbearable pain, so bad I was lucky to get an hour of sleep a night.” Since the STAR™ treatment, Mr. Wagoner is sleeping through the night and noted, “The pain has been greatly reduced, I am taking fewer medications, and now I can better focus on the radiation treatments that are ahead.”

Because RF energy does not directly stimulate nerves or muscles, as do other types of energy delivering devices, RF ablation therapies have been effectively used to treat soft tissue diseases in the heart, lungs, kidneys, breast, liver, and various other sites throughout the body.

The STAR System, using t-RFA, is a dramatic step forward in the palliative treatment of metastatic spinal tumors of vertebral bodies. Unlike other currently available ablation tools designed for soft tissue, the STAR System was developed specifically to treat metastatic tumors in the bone.

Metastatic bone disease occurs in up to 85 percent of patients with the three most common types of primary cancer – breast, prostate and lung. The spine is the most common site for bone metastases, with studies showing that metastatic spinal tumors will develop in 10-40 percent of all cancer patients, with even higher rates in elderly patients.

The benefits of t-RFA using the STAR Ablation System include: it is a minimally invasive procedure that can be performed on an outpatient basis and requires only a small surgical incision; and it is designed to ablate (break up) the patient’s vertebral body lesion and intended to provide palliative pain relief, which usually occurs within hours.

Dr. Coldwell noted, “This treatment provides another option in the advanced modalities available at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.