Ultrasound Prostate Cancer Treatment: Good or Bad?

Ultrasound Prostate Cancer Treatment shows fewer side effects: It’s the most common cancer in men worldwide, as well as a common cause of death among elderly men in the United States and Europe. Prostate cancer is the sixth most-common cause of death from cancer in men worldwide, and although it’s less common in Asia and Africa, in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, it’s the second most common cause of cancer death in men of all ages.

In the U.S., about 250,000 new cases happen every year, leading to about 30,000 deaths; In the UK, about 250,000 men are currently living with the disease, which has led to about 10,000 deaths.

Conventional treatments involve treating the whole prostate — with either radiotherapy or surgery to remove it completely. Cryotherapy, where prostate cancer cells are frozen and destroyed, is also sometimes used.

But because these treatments damage surrounding healthy tissue, these cause distressing side effects — urinary incontinence requiring one or more pads a day (five-25 percent experience this) erections insufficient for sexual intercourse (30-70 percent) and rectal problems, such as diarrhea, bleeding and pain (five -10 percent).

There is thus is a need for new kinds of treatment that safely remove cancerous tissue without damaging surrounding nerves.

A new experimental prostate cancer treatment that uses high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) — or sound waves promises to selectively target individual cancer cells — promises to be more effective and to have fewer side effects than conventional treatments, according to a new study published early online in The Lancet Oncology on 17 April 2012.

Doctors at University College Hospital in London have carried out the small first trial using HIFU aimed at small patches of cancer cells on the prostate of 41 patients. The study was designed as a proof-of-concept study.

As an alternative to radical whole-gland removal (radical prostatectomy) in men with localized prostate cancer, HIFU is similar to the option of a “lumpectomy” as an alternative to a full mastectomy in breast cancer.

Killing cancer cells with soundwaves focused to millimeter-accuracy
Doctors at University College Hospital in London conducted the phase 1 study between June 2007 and June 2010.

For the study, Dr. Hashim Ahmed, a urological surgeon at the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who led the study and colleagues recruited 42 men with prostate cancer. One man died of causes unrelated to the cancer three months after treatment, so only 41 were included in the analysis.

The men chosen to participate in the study were:

  • 45 to 80 years old
  • With medium- to high-risk cancer
  • Would likely have undergone surgery or radiotherapy down the line

Men who had already received chemotherapy, hormone treatment or radiation therapy were excluded from the study.

Then the doctors proceeded to:
• Use two highly sensitive diagnostic techniques — MRI and mapping biopsies — to enable them to pinpoint the exact location of the cancer lesion or lesions. This isn’t possible using standard diagnostic tests like transrectal biopsy.
• They then targeted these areas with the HIFU device.
• HIFU focuses high frequency sound waves to millimeter accuracy — onto an area the size of a grain of rice.
• The sound waves caused the tissue to vibrate and heat up to around 80 to 90 degrees Celsius.
• Cells were killed instantaneously.

The HIFU ultrasound prostate cancer treatment procedure is performed in hospital under general anesthetic and most patients are back home within 24 hours.

A full year following the trial, the researchers found that:
• About 95 percent of the men were cancer-free.
• None of the patients reported urinary incontinence a year after treatment.
• Only 1 in 10 suffered from poor erections.