High-intensity-focused ultrasound (HIFU) can treat some men with prostate cancer as an alternative to surgery or radiation therapy. The corresponding study was published in The Lancet.
"We believe this novel treatment strategy will improve the lives of many prostate cancer patients," said Dr. Behfar Ehdaie, a urologic cancer surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the lead author of the study.
"To draw a parallel with how breast cancer treatment changed 30 years ago, you could think of focal therapy as a 'male lumpectomy.' Instead of removing all the tissue in a breast or prostate, we have learned that it is safe and effective to treat specific areas and greatly reduce the burden on patients," he added.
Typically, when cancer is confined to the prostate gland, treatment options include active surveillance or ‘close monitoring’, surgery, and radiation. Surgery and radiation, however, often lead to side effects such as urinary and sexual problems that may reduce life quality.
In the current study, researchers conducted a phase 2 trial of HIFU, a magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound treatment that takes around two hours. For the treatment, patients are put under anesthesia, and the lower half of their body is placed in an MRI machine. The MRI machine first takes an image of the prostate, which then allows doctors to outline the treatment area in which focused ultrasound waves, guided by MRI, may be delivered. The ultrasound waves arrive from different directions and kill the cancer by heating its cells to over 158 °F (70 °C).
In the current trial, 101 men received the novel treatment, and were biopsied six and 24 months later. The researchers found that there was no intermediate or higher risk cancer left in the treated area for 88% of patients. The researchers further noted that the treatment was free from side effects, including urinary incontinence and bowel problems. Most also did not experience any sexual problems after.
Based on this data, the FDA approved the treatment, called ‘Exblate Prostate’, to treat prostate tissue. The FDA also approved a trial to compare the treatment with active surveillance.