• Dr Rowland Illing featured in the Daily Mail

    Dr Rowland Illing has been featured in the Daily Mail, the most popular UK newspaper.  The story is part of the ‘Me and my operation’ section.

    The story outlines the treatment of Mr Peter Ellis who Dr Illing treated with cryoablation for a small kidney tumour in his one remaining kidney.

    An excerpt from the article is given below. The full piece can be found here


    ‘Cryotherapy was introduced a decade ago as an experimental treatment on the NHS for cancerous tumours.

    It has been given approval by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a recognised treatment for prostate and kidney cancers, and its benefits are being tested for bone, liver and breast cancers. There are 20 centres offering the treatment.

    This technique is accurate and minimally invasive, there are no incisions and fewer side-effects than with surgery. And less tissue is affected.

    Instead of cutting out the lump, you freeze the tumour with ice crystals, then thaw it – this process kills the tumour.

    We gave Peter a general anaesthetic and slotted him into a CT scanning machine, which produces a 3D image of inside the body – the latest advance is combining cryotherapy with magnetic resource imaging (MRI) for even clearer pictures.

    Next, we inserted hollow metal needles into the affected organ. A computer linked to the scanning machine guides the needles into the correct position.

    Inserting the needles, or cryoprobes, is challenging, like a magician’s sword trick. They mustn’t pierce blood vessels and while they can be inserted when the patient is breathing in or out, the key is to ensure they are inserted in the same rhythm every time. This is because other organs shift position in sync with the lungs.

    Each needle is connected to a cable, which in turn is connected to two cylinders, one containing argon gas and one helium. We pump argon gas at high pressure through the cables and down each needle to freeze the tumour cells.

    This supercools the needle tips to -110 degrees, resulting in tiny iceballs that eventually engulf the tumour and freeze it for 16 to 20 minutes.

    Freezing causes ice crystals to form inside the cancer cells. But this doesn’t actually kill the tumour. This is done by slowly warming them to make them fuse together, expand and rupture the cancer cell membranes – which also destroys the tumour blood vessels.

    This thawing effect is aided by using helium to melt the iceball. The freeze-thaw process is repeated twice before each needle is slid out.

    During the procedure, we examine the CT scan to check that the ice, which shows up black, has grown enough to engulf the tumour and destroy a margin of tissue around it.

    Whenever an organ undergoes surgery there’s a risk of bleeding. But these risks are lower with cryotherapy because we’re not cutting into the organ.

    The usual risks with operations, such as infection, apply, but are minimal.

    The team’s skill lies in getting rid of just enough tissue. It’s a trade-off between losing as little as possible and having a margin so that all the cancer cells are killed off.