Research published in The Journal of Urology offers an alternative to invasive prostate cancer treatments like surgery and radiation. Standard treatments can have serious side effects such as urinary incontinence or impotency; the new alternative, called focal or targeted high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) ablation, offers a means of improving the quality of life for prostate cancer patients. The study comes from collaborating scientists from USC Urology and Keck Medicine of USC.
The study followed 100 men in the US who received focal HIFU ablation as an outpatient procedure during the time period of 2015-2019. The procedure is relatively fast, lasting approximately only two hours, during which time a focused ultrasound beam is used to raise the temperature inside the prostate to 90 degrees Celsius in order to kill targeted areas of prostate tissue.
Following the results of the study, patients receiving focal HIFU ablation had shorter recovery times compared to patients who underwent surgery and or radiation. Focal HIFU ablation was also an appropriate means of primary treatment, given that 91% of HIFU patients were able to avoid surgery or radiation. According to the researchers, 73% of patients did not experience treatment failure, which they categorized as cancer recurrence, metastases or mortality, or the need for additional hormone therapy, chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.
"This positive data empowers urologists to use focal HIFU ablation to effectively address prostate cancer without the intrinsic side effects of radical treatments," says first author Andre Abreu, MD, who is a urologic surgeon with Keck Medicine. "We hope this study encourages prostate cancer patients to talk to their doctor about all potential treatment options to ensure that they receive a personalized care plan that addresses their individual needs."
While this type of treatment has been available for a long time, only recently was it approved by the FDA (in 2015). Given the study’s positive results, the researchers say they anticipate the treatment will become common as precision medicine becomes more advanced.
"Throughout screening, diagnosis and treatment, it is important to balance accuracy and efficacy. Our physicians will continue working toward better methods to personalize that balance for every prostate cancer patient," comments senior author Inderbir S. Gill, MD, founding and executive director of USC Urology.