Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Focused ultrasound is an early stage, noninvasive therapeutic technology with the potential to improve the quality of life and decrease the cost of care for patients with breast cancer. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets in the body without damaging surrounding normal tissue.
How it Works
Where the beams converge, focused ultrasound produces several therapeutic effects that are being evaluated. One mechanism is precise ablation (thermal destruction of tissue). The goal could be complete ablation of the cancer, or it can be done partially. Partial ablation may help awaken the immune system for a more generalized response. A second mechanism is to promote the targeted release of therapeutic treatments in the region of the tumor.
Current treatment options for breast cancer include combinations of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or targeted drug therapies.
Focused ultrasound – used alone and in combination with other therapies – is being investigated to treat breast cancer.
Potential advantages as compared to current treatments:
- Focused ultrasound is noninvasive and therefore has reduced risk for infection and blood clots, and potential for shorter recovery time.
- Precise targeting minimizes damage to non-targeted healthy tissue.
- No ionizing radiation, enabling repeat treatment if necessary.
- Treatment can be a complement to drug therapy, enabling enhanced delivery of chemotherapy or immunotherapy to tumors.
- May potentially induce an anti-tumor immune response.
A clinical trial in New York is treating benign and stage 1 malignant breast tumors.
A clinical trial is evaluating the use of high-intensity focused ultrasound combined with pembrolizumab in patients with metastatic breast cancer at the University of Virginia.
A clinical trial is evaluating the use of high-intensity focused ultrasound combined with gemcitabine in patients with stage I-III breast cancer at the University of Virginia. This is a treatment followed by surgical resection trial.
A clinical trial is recruiting patients with solid tumors with metastatic lesions, including breast cancer, at the University of Virginia.
A clinical trial of patients with breast cancer is recruiting patients in France. This study is treating patients with breast cancer prior to surgical removal.
A clinical trial for patients with breast cancer that has metastasized to their brain has begun enrolling patients in Canada. The team will us focused ultrasound to open the blood brain barrier to allow therapeutic medications to more effectively reach the tumor in their brain. This study is only open to Canadian citizens. A summary of the first four patients has been published.
A clinical trial for patients with breast cancer that is locally advanced or includes the chest wall has begun in Canada. This study uses a combination of focused ultrasound and radiation. This study is only open to Canadian citizens.
A clinical trial in Trondheim, Norway is using focused ultrasound to pre-treat patients with metastatic lesions in their liver due to breast cancer before chemotherapy doses.
A clinical trial in Utrecht, Netherlands is using focused ultrasound for ablation of breast cancer prior to surgical resection.
A second clinical trial in Utrecht, Netherlands is using focused ultrasound for hyperthermia to help targeted drug therapy for patients with breast cancer.
Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement
The Model JC system manufactured by Chongqing Haifu has been approved in Europe, Russia, and China treatment of breast cancer.
Focused ultrasound treatment for patients with breast cancer is not universally reimbursed by medical insurers.
Preclinical Laboratory Studies
Preclinical studies are underway to investigate the use of non-ablation mechanisms of focused ultrasound in the treatment of breast cancer. Examples of these studies include:
- Focused ultrasound to induce an immune response that could be combined with immunotherapeutics (e.g. checkpoint inhibitors) to treat both local and systemic disease.
- Focused ultrasound to enable targeted delivery and/or activation of drugs via carrier vehicles (e.g. microbubbles, nanoparticles, liposomes) to enable delivery of high concentrations in the tumor with minimal systemic side effects.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
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