Bronchoscopic ablation of peripheral lung tumors
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide and lobectomy remains the standard of care for patients with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The combination of an aging population and the implementation of low-dose CT for lung cancer screening is leading to an increase in diagnosis of early stage NSCLC in medically “inoperable” patients. The recommended treatment for this latter group of patients is stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). However, many patients cannot undergo SBRT because they have received prior radiation or because the tumor is located next to vital structures. Percutaneous ablative therapies have become an alternative to SBRT but, unfortunately, they all violate the pleura and are associated with high rate of pneumothorax. With a more favorable safety profile and the ability to provide also diagnosis and nodal staging, bronchoscopic ablation is hence emerging as a potential future therapeutic alternative for these patients. Herein we review the current state of the art including animal and human data that exists thus far. We also discuss technical and research challenges as well as future directions that this exciting new technology may take.