Pilot study to evaluate focused ultrasound breast cancer treatment

The University Medical Center Utrecht and Royal Philips Electronics have started a pilot clinical study to evaluate MR-guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) as treatment for breast cancer.

MR-HIFU has emerged as a technology with the potential to noninvasively destroy tumors by heat. High intensity focused ultrasound directs sound energy into a tumor, which then dissipates and generates heat in the tumor. The technique can achieve tissue temperatures in excess of 65 degrees Celsius, high enough to kill tumor cells without damaging the surrounding tissue, according to a release issued by Philips.

MR imaging provides real-time imaging of soft tissue structures so the HIFU beam can be focused on the tumor. It also spatially maps local tissue temperatures in order to provide real-time feedback for controlling the applied temperature profiles.

The MR-HIFU treatment is carried out under local anesthetic or sedation. Following this treatment, researchers will perform a conventional surgical procedure to verify the precision of the treatment. The aim of the study is to assess the image quality achieved by the MR-HIFU system as well as the safety and precision of the technique in this application.

“This new pilot study targets patients with small breast tumors that have not metastasized; these patients belong to a group that encompasses approximately a quarter of all breast cancer patients in the Netherlands,” Maurice van den Bosch, MD, interventional radiologist and research leader at the University Medical Center Utrecht, in the Netherlands, said in the release.

To date, MR-guided HIFU has been used to treat benign uterine tumors. For the current study, Philips built a dedicated investigational system optimized for the anatomy of the female breast.