Public Release: 

Surgical technique relieves painful spine fractures in patients with metastatic cancer

New data reported at the 35th ESMO Congress

European Society for Medical Oncology

A surgical technique appears to offer quick and effective relief for debilitating spinal fractures often suffered by patients with metastatic cancer, researchers reported at the 35th Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in Milan.

Many patients with multiple myeloma, or those whose cancer has spread beyond the initial tumor site, suffer compression fractures in their spine. This is partly because the spine is one of the most common sites for metastatic spread of the disease, making the vertebrae brittle and at risk for fractures. Widely-used cancer treatments such as corticoid treatment, hormone therapy, radiation therapy can also have a weakening effect on bone and increase the risk for fractures in these patients.

Professor Leonard Bastian from Klinikum Leverkusen in German led an international trial testing a new technique to treat these compression fractures, called balloon kyphoplasty.

"Balloon Kyphoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to treat patients with painful vertebral compression fractures," Prof Bastian explained.

To perform the procedure, a surgeon inserts a small orthopedic balloon through a 1 cm incision into the fractured vertebra. Inflation of the balloon can restore the shape and height of the vertebrae. The balloon is then deflated and removed and a precise amount of quick-setting bone cement is injected in the vertebral body restoring the shape and strength of the vertebrae.

At the congress, Prof Bastian reported the results of a trial including 134 patients randomly assigned to either balloon kyphoplasty (70 patients) or non-surgical management (64).

Those who had the surgery showed improvements in a questionnaire designed to measure their level of disability at one month after surgery. They also experienced a significant improvement in back pain one week after surgery, while those who received non-surgical management saw no improvement.

After one month, patients in the non-surgical arm of the study were allowed to receive balloon kyphoplasty. Thirty-eight chose to do so. All patients who underwent balloon kyphoplasty reported sustained improvements in quality of life for a year after treatment.

"Balloon kyphoplasty offers quick pain relief; restores patient activity and mobility and it gives an important improvement of quality of life," Prof Bastian said. "It may be the right treatment option for vertebral compression fractures if conventional pain medication has not been effective or has too many side-effects."

"This study demonstrates balloon kyphoplasty should be considered when painful vertebral compression fractures occur in cancer patients. It is an additional therapy which can really add to the patient's quality of life."

"The role of balloon kyphoplasty for the control of pain and disability in cancer patients is a hot topic," commented Dr Fausto Roila from Ospedale Santa Maria, Terni, Italy. "Managing the side-effects of therapies and the symptoms of cancer is an important aspect of cancer care."

The study by Prof Bastian's group adds to a growing literature on the role of kyphoplasty, Dr Roila noted. "As research into this technique continues it will be important to conduct double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to identify the place of balloon kyphoplasty in cancer care."

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Notes to Editors

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About the European Society for Medical Oncology

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) is the leading European professional organization committed to advancing the specialty of medical oncology and promoting a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment and care.

ESMO's mission is to advance cancer care and cure through fostering and disseminating good science that leads to better medicine and determines best practice. In this way ESMO fulfils its goal to support oncology professionals in providing people with cancer with the most effective treatments available and the high-quality care they deserve.

The ESMO community is a powerful alliance of more than 6,000 committed oncology professionals from over 100 countries. As a trusted organization with 35 years of experience and over 500 expert officers, ESMO serves its members and the oncology community through: a brand of excellence in post-graduate oncology education and training; leadership in transforming evidence-based research into standards of cancer care in Europe; dedicated efforts to foster a more favorable environment for scientific research; innovative international platforms to share expertise, best practices and disseminate the most up-to-date scientific research to as wide an audience as possible.

ESMO's scientific journal, Annals of Oncology, ranks among the top clinical oncology journals worldwide. ESMO events are the meeting place in Europe for medical oncologists to update their knowledge, to network and to exchange ideas.

To find our more about our Society, please visit: www.esmo.org

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