High-intensity focused ultrasound
      may offer prostate cancer patients a treatment option with fewer
      side effects by targeting tumors better, according to a study
      published in the medical journal The Lancet Oncology.

      The technology enables doctors to preserve the prostate by
      aiming only at the cancerous area in contrast to standard
      treatment, such as irradiation or surgical removal of the gland,
      which may cause impotence and leakage of urine or feces,
      researchers in London said in the study published today. The
      technique, also called HIFU, may provide men with an alternative
      similar to the lumpectomy, in which doctors remove tumors rather
      than the whole organ in breast-cancer patients, they said.

      “The signal from this study is quite strong,” Hashim
      Ahmed, a urologist at the University College London who was the
      report’s lead author, said in a phone interview. “When you look
      at the current standard of care, there’s a 1-in-3, or 1-in-2
      chance of having the perfect outcome. In this study, after 12
      months, it’s a 9-in-10 chance.”

      None of the 41 men in the trial reported urine incontinence
      and only one in 10 suffered from poor erections 12 months after
      the treatment, the researchers said. About 95 percent of the men
      were cancer-free after a year, meaning most had a “perfect
      outcome” in terms of disease progression and side effects, the
      authors said.

      Larger Trial

      The study was carried out in London and funded by the U.K.
      Medical Research Council, the Pelican Cancer Foundation and St.
      Peter’s Trust for Kidney, Bladder Prostate Research. Ahmed
      said he’s recruiting patients for a larger trial in the U.K. and
      is looking for funding.

      HIFU is a narrow, focused beam of high-energy sound waves
      directed at a cancerous area the size of a grain of rice.
      Doctors using magnetic resonance imaging and mapping biopsies to
      identify targets and aim the sound waves at affected tissue,
      causing it to vibrate and heat to about 80 degrees Celsius (176
      degrees Fahrenheit) to kill cells, according to the study.

      The procedure was performed in the hospital under general
      anesthesia and most patients were home within 24 hours, the
      researchers said.

      The men in the study were all medium- to high-risk patients
      whose cancer was likely to spread within a few years and who
      would have faced surgery or radiotherapy and side effects, Ahmed
      said. Men who had already received chemotherapy, hormone
      treatment or radiation therapy were excluded from the trial.

      Smaller Tumors

      The technology is “very good for smaller tumors, and it
      preserves nerves and blood vessels, which is important for
      sexual function,” said Malcolm Mason, a spokesman on prostate
      cancer for Cancer Research UK and head of oncology and
      palliative medicine at Cardiff University.

      HIFU may offer better quality of life for low-risk patients
      who, while not needing surgery or radiation, may be anxious
      about their condition, Mason said. In these cases, standard
      treatment isn’t given unless there’s a change in test results
      such as levels of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA. Low-risk
      patients may not see their cancer spread for many years.

      “Certainly within the prostate field it’s a very
      encouraging step,” Mason said. “It doesn’t mean that HIFU is
      better and that men should demand HIFU over any other

      Cause of Death

      Prostate cancer is the sixth most-common cause of cancer
      death in men worldwide, according to Cancer Research UK. Other
      treatments being used include cryotherapy, where prostate cancer
      cells are frozen and destroyed, as well as hormone therapy and

      HIFU may be cheaper than the standard treatment, Ahmed
      said. The cost of the MRI and mapping was an estimated 1,500
      pounds ($2,400) and the HIFU procedure totaled 1,000 pounds, he
      said. That compares with about 4,500 pounds to remove the
      prostate, he said. Fewer side effects would also cost the health
      system less, Ahmed said.

      The technology may also be applied to other cell-based
      cancers such as breast, thyroid, pancreas and liver, Ahmed said.

      To contact the reporter on this story:
      Allison Connolly in Frankfurt at

      To contact the editor responsible for this story:
      Phil Serafino at