Cancer patients living with cancer that has spread to the bone are more often than not addressed with standard radiation therapy to manage and reduce pain. However, is radiation treatment fails or can no longer be safely administered, a new alternative is available.
At the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, Dr. Mark Hurwitz, Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center’s director of Thermal Oncology, reported that patients treated with magnetic resonance image-guided focused ultrasound (MRIgFU for short) ablation therapy, vastly reduced discomfort and pain in around 70% of patients who were treated.
The treatment is carried out by ExAblate, a device that employs multiple tiny ultrasound beams that concentrate on a tumor within the bone, heat and eventually, destroy it.
"Pain is a common, often debilitating symptom of the spread of cancer to bones. We are pleased to now have a second therapy that can improve a patient's enjoyment of life," commented Dr. Hurwitz. Many cancers unfortunately spread to bones, and an alarming number of patients live with these metastases for years, which naturally has a profound impact on quality of life. While reliance on cancer support groups, exercise and diet are beneficial, therapy is almost always necessary.
The reported findings of the trial eventually led to full approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration for ExAblate last fall as “secondary therapy for palliation of painful metastatic bone tumors.”
"The response to ExAblate was as good as radiotherapy, which was notable because it is very unusual to see a second-line treatment with a response rate that is as high as first-line therapy," stated Dr. Hurwitz.
Additionally, ExAblate has several other advantages in comparison to comparative ablative therapies. "It is non-invasive and provides more detailed anatomic information so that we can visualize the complete beam path to make sure that critical structures such as vessels and nerves are not in the way. We are also able to monitor the temperature in the tumor as well as in nearby normal tissues so that we do not inadvertently heat normal organs and tissues,” explains Dr. Hurwitz. "The treatment is given just once, and a response occurs within days. There are a lot of patients who could potentially benefit from MR guided focused ultrasound."