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April 30, 2008

Breakthrough Treatment Saves Vocal Chords and Lives

ABC Evening News:

Armed with a special laser he uses on opera singers and rock stars, Dr. Steven Zeitels, director of the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital, is taking aim at vocal cord cancer, to see if he can save not only lives, but also save voices in danger of being destroyed by conventional surgery or radiation.

Armed with a passion for preserving the health of vocal cords, Dr. Zeitels has saved some of the most famous voices in the world, like Aerosmith's.

"I had the opportunity over time to manage very elite voices which taught me a lot of physiology, be they singers or lecturers. And I tried to interweave what I learned about their physiology into the design of cancer operations," Dr. Zeitels said.

He has developed a breakthrough in treating vocal cord cancer. And his research is already paying off for Sefi Rivlin -- one of Israel's most beloved comic actors. In 2006, Rivlin was diagnosed with vocal cord cancer and offered traditional treatments, surgery or radiation, both of which would work but permanently damage his voice.

"One is to do radiation, and the other option is to cut all my larynx with my vocal cords. It's mean not to talk forever. For me, in my profession, it's like a death penalty. It's like my life is over." Rivlin said.

Rivlin first arrived in the U.S. in October 2006 with cancer that filled his entire larynx. It's the largest vocal cord tumor that Dr. Zeitels has attempted to treat with this radical new approach.

Rivlin agreed to undergo Dr. Zeitels' radical new approach, using a special laser -- called an angiolytic laser -- that targets the tumor's blood supply, thereby killing the cancer cells.

In the 10 treatments Rivlin has undergone so far, the transformation is stunning.

"I see no evidence of cancer. The dysplasia is mostly resolved," Dr. Zeitels said.

Most of the procedures are done without general anesthesia, in the office, and take about 20 minutes. A major advantage of the laser: It can be repeated as needed for years to come if new lesions are found, with surgery and radiation preserved as options if needed.

Unlike other lasers that cut away tissue, this one targets just a tumor's blood supply and leaves normal tissue alone. Dr. Zeitels explained, "You're directing the light but you're only directing it under a microscope to the cancerous tissue and you don't affect the normal tissue."

In the United States, 90 percent of patients with early vocal cord cancer receive radiation. But radiation often makes normal vocal cord tissue rigid and unable to vibrate, and that impairs the voice.

"For vocal cords to vibrate, they need to be soft and pliable, very similar to a child's skin or an infant's skin. This laser is absorbed by hemoglobin and blood and only heats the tumor which is why the pliability is basically preserved," Dr. Zeitels said.

Tomorrow, at the annual meeting of the American Broncho-Esophageal Association, Dr. Zeitels will report on his 5-year pilot study of early vocal cord cancer treated with the angiolytic laser. The results are dramatic: all 23 patients are cancer-free and all have excellent vocal function. Larger studies need to confirm these findings, but Dr. Zeitels has no doubt ushered in a new era of treatment for vocal cord cancer, where losing one's voice isn't the trade-off for saving one's life.

Watch the news segment.

Posted by acapnews at April 30, 2008 9:17 PM


Very interesting I have cancer in the vocal cord
I have had radiation treatment, been to Moffett
in Tampa Fl. this has been going on since 07 now they
are talking about an operation to remove the voice
box. Any chance you could save my voice box?
Very interesting site.
Please advise Thank you Alvin

Posted by: Alvin Knowlton at May 3, 2008 5:20 PM

my brother in india age 72 has just been diagnosed with ca of the vocal chords.Do you know if any centre in india is doing this procedure?.I would deeply appreciate the information.
Dr s. mecci

Posted by: s.mecci at May 25, 2008 1:58 PM

My 43 yr old daughter was recently advised that her damaged vocal chords have a pre-cancerous condition (due to a botched back surgery procedure). Radiation has been advised. Is this her only option?

Posted by: Ramona Butler at July 5, 2008 8:32 PM

I have just been diagnosed with pre melanoma cells on my vocal chord. Is this treatable with Dr Zeitels angiolytic laser before the cancer starts to inverse, ie, kill the cells before they start to invade. Is this procedure available in the UK?

Posted by: David Threlfall at July 7, 2008 1:32 AM

I am 57 years old and have just had my thyroid gland removed due to cancer. On my post operative check-up I was found to have pre-cancer cells on my vocal chords. I would like to know if the UK can offer any similar treat mcent to Dr Zeitels.
If not I would like further information about treatment in the US.

Posted by: Lynne McParlin at January 4, 2009 3:14 PM

a question. Is there a doctor in the Los Angeles, CA area who does this laser procedure on vocal chords? Please advise. Thanks much

Posted by: thomas Ehrhart at February 11, 2009 2:44 PM

Alvin had cancer of the vocal cords, had 60 treatment of radiation didnlt work removed vocal
cords now it is back on the caroid artery tried
chemo ct scan showed not working, Can this treatment help. All those treatment make him feel
lousy no energy, tired and he says useless.
Please let me know if you have any ideas.
Dottie Knowlton

Posted by: Alvin Knowlton at February 26, 2009 5:18 PM

I have been diagnosed of Squamous cell carcinoma of the vocal cords and have subsequently undergone 3 surgeries in which my right vocal cord was removed as well as half of left vocal cord. These 3 surgeries happened within a span of 11 months. Now I have been advised either Complete Laryngectomy or Radiation in order to take a chance to save the larynx. Since last week or 10 days I'm suffering from breathlessness on moderate exertion, which subsides when I rest for a few minutes. Could this be having anything to do with my cancer of larynx. Is here any other option besides Radiotherapy and Laryngectomy?
I really value your advice and extremely sorry for posting such a long comment.
Thank you.
N. H. Shaikh

Posted by: N. H. Shaikh at March 4, 2009 8:34 AM

wow this amazing, that laser sounds pretty cool but im still pretty skeptical about but it does sound quite awesome.

Posted by: christy at March 18, 2009 11:09 AM

I had polys removed 3 times ,I am interested in your study

Posted by: michael chandler at May 28, 2009 4:09 PM

Recently been diagnosed with 10mm tumour on vocal chord, are you aware if any practioner in the UK using this laser system.
Look forward to any information
Rodney Randle

Posted by: rodney randle at June 5, 2009 10:57 AM

My father 65 has been diagnosed with cancer on left vocal chord. Where should I go in India for treatment/ which therapy?

Posted by: sharan at June 26, 2009 12:48 PM

cancerous tumour on my left vocal chord.
Dr. Steven Zeitels said that it had probaby been growing for 10 years. I had a 2 hour operation using KTP laser, no pain no side effects, thanks to Dr. Zeitels and his team
Rodney Randle

Posted by: rodney randle at January 29, 2010 1:23 PM

i have two dameged vocal chord and at the moment i m using speaking valve.Is there any treatment to cure the vocal chord in India.Thanks. Shahajalal.

Posted by: shahajalal at March 4, 2011 4:06 AM

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