Incomplete thermal ablation of tumors promotes increased tumorigenesis

Aurelia Markezana, S. Nahum Goldberg, Gaurav Kumar, Elina Zorde-Khvalevsky, Svetlana Gourevtich, Nir Rozenblum, Eithan Galun, Muneeb Ahmed*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose: While systemic tumor-stimulating effects can occur following ablation of normal liver linked to the IL-6/HGF/VEGF cytokinetic pathway, the potential for tumor cells themselves to produce these unwanted effects is currently unknown. Here, we study whether partially treated tumors induce increased tumor growth post-radiofrequency thermal ablation (RFA). Methods: Tumor growth was measured in three immunocompetent, syngeneic tumor models following partial RFA of the target tumor (in subcutaneous CT26 and MC38 mouse colorectal adenocarcinoma, N = 14 each); and in a distant untreated tumor following partial RFA of target subcutaneous R3230 rat breast adenocarcinoma (N = 12). Tumor cell proliferation (ki-67) and microvascular density (CD34) was assessed. In R3230 tumors, in vivo mechanism of action was assessed following partial RFA by measuring IL-6, HGF, and VEGF expression (ELISA) and c-Met protein (Western blot). Finally, RFA was performed in R3230 tumors with adjuvant c-Met kinase inhibitor or VEGF receptor inhibitor (at 3 days post-RFA, N = 3/arm, total N = 12). Results: RFA stimulated tumor growth in vivo in residual, incompletely treated surrounding CT26 and MC38 tumor at 3–6 days (p < 0.01). In R3230, RFA increased tumor growth in distant tumor 7 days post treatment compared to controls (p < 0.001). For all models, Ki-67 and CD34 were elevated (p < 0.01, all comparisons). IL-6, HGF, and VEGF were also upregulated post incomplete tumor RFA (p < 0.01). These markers were suppressed to baseline levels with adjuvant c-MET kinase or VEGF receptor inhibition. Conclusion: Incomplete RFA of a target tumor can sufficiently stimulate residual tumor cells to induce accelerated growth of distant tumors via the IL-6/c-Met/HGF pathway and VEGF production.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)263-272
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Hyperthermia
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
S. Nahum Goldberg – Unrelated consulting and sponsored research support from Angiodynamics and Cosman Company. Muneeb Ahmed – Unrelated consulting support from Canon Medical, Inc, Agile Devices, Inc, and RevOps Health, Inc; Scientific Advisory Board for Boston Scientific. All other authors have no conflicting interests to report.

Funding Information:
This work is supported by National Cancer Institute [1R01CA197081-01A1], Israel Ministry of Science and Technology [3-12063], and Israel Science Foundation [1277/15].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • colorectal cancer
  • hyperthermia
  • interventional oncology
  • tumorigenesis


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