Balloon holds key to cancer treatment 

15/06/2011 00:00 

A new procedure pioneered at UCLH which uses radio-frequency to burn away cancerous tissue is helping patients at risk of developing throat cancer.

The Halo 360 ablation catheter (pictured) is key to the new treatment for Barrett's oesophagus

The Halo 360 ablation catheter (pictured) is key to the new treatment for Barrett's oesophagus


An electrode-covered balloon is the key to the treatment which is proving increasingly successful in treating the condition which affects one in 200 patients in the UK.

Around half a million people in the UK have the condition known as Barrett’s Oesophagus but most do not know it - only around 50,000 have been diagnosed. The condition is commonly caused by stomach acid washing back up the gullet, or oesophagus, inflaming the cells that line it.

If this happens continually, the cells change, and becomel pre-cancerous - meaning they’re more likely than any other cells to become cancerous.

Around one in ten with the condition are at risk of developing cancer of the oesophagus - 7,000 people a year die of the disease, making it Britain’s fifth biggest cause of cancer deaths.

If the condition does become cancerous one treatment option is to remove the oesophagus – major surgery which can lead to a long hospital stay.

However a new minimally invasive procedure known, as Halo technology, is being pioneered by Dr Laurance Lovat, consultant gastroenterologist at University College Hospital.

The procedure, carried out under sedation without the need for anaesthetic, is a form of radio-frequency ablation, which uses heat generated by electrical currents to burn away pre-cancerous tissue.

The ablation catheter attachment for the Halo 360, which has a balloon tip fitted to it and aims short bursts of energy to burn

The ablation catheter attachment for the Halo 360, which has a balloon tip fitted to it and aims short bursts of energy to burn away the diseased layer of cells


A device known as a Halo 360 ablation catheter is inserted into the oesophagus alongside an endoscope fitted with a light source and a video camera.

The Halo  360 device also has a balloon at the tip covered by a band of electrodes. Once the electrodes of the balloon are positioned on the desired treatment area, the balloon is inflated. Short bursts of energy burn away the diseased layer of cells.

The patient is normally well enough to go home within a couple of hours.

Patients may need several treatments. After the first session, treatment is often to very small areas of residual Barrett's cells and for this a smaller HALO 90 device is used. Up to 90 per cent of patients are free of Barrett's cells after two to three sessions.

Dr Lovat, said: “Removing the affected section of the oesophagus and joining up the healthy ends is a major operation - even done through the keyhole - with a recovery time of up to nine months.

“Halo is still a new treatment but the early results are incredibly encouraging. It benefits the patients because they don’t have to spend a long period in hospital and it also benefits the NHS as it frees up expensive hospital beds.”

 

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