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Dr. Kenneth P. Ramming, 65; Was a Top Cryosurgeon

July 04, 2004|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Dr. Kenneth P. Ramming, who pioneered cryosurgical treatment for prostate, liver and pancreatic cancer and helped launch the liver transplant program at UCLA Medical Center, has died. He was 65.

Ramming died Tuesday in Los Angeles of undisclosed causes.

A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Ramming was educated at Valparaiso University in Indiana and Duke University Medical School. He came to UCLA Medical Center as a surgeon and teacher in 1974.

During his long tenure in Westwood, Ramming helped establish the prestigious teaching hospital's liver transplant program. He also made strides in cancer treatment while working at St. John's Hospital and the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

Ramming attracted an international following in the early 1990s with his research in the new discipline of cryosurgery. The technique involves using liquid nitrogen to reduce tumors to minus 190 degrees Celsius, freezing them. The tumors can be killed with two 15-minute freezing and thawing cycles.

When the dead tumor thaws, Ramming once explained to The Times, it transforms to a gray mush that can be reabsorbed by the body.

The foremost proponent of cryosurgery in the Los Angeles area, along with Dr. Wilson S. Wong of Alhambra Hospital, Ramming began using the technique on liver and prostate tumors that could not be removed by conventional surgery.

After performing about 120 cryosurgeries on livers and 55 on prostate tumors with promising results, he began adapting the technique for pancreatic cancer. Cancer of the pancreas, one of the most deadly, kills 97% of its victims within five years.

After two years of experimenting with dogs and human cadavers, Ramming performed his first pancreatic cryosurgery in October 1994.

"There's no question that cryosurgery kills cancer. The only limiting factor is our creativity in applying it," he told The Times a month later after performing his second pancreatic cryosurgery.

Within a few months, Ramming had performed half a dozen of the delicate operations and considered the technique promising.

"Pancreatic cancer is usually inoperable, rapid and debilitatingly painful," he told Cancer Weekly in June 1995. "Through cryosurgery, we may have found a new weapon that, for some individuals, may eliminate the pain of pancreatic cancer, extend life and, quite simply, enhance the quality of life."

Ramming is survived by his wife, Mary Ann; three sons, Peter, Paul and James; and one granddaughter.

The family has asked that any memorial donations go to the Dumont-UCLA Liver Transplant Center, with checks made out to UC Regents, attention Colleen Devaney, Dumont-UCLA Transplant Center, Center for Health Sciences, Room 77-120, 10833 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095.

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