Head and Neck Tumors

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Focused Ultrasound Therapy

Focused ultrasound is a rapidly evolving, noninvasive, therapeutic technology with the potential to improve the quality of life and decrease the cost of care for patients with tumors of the head and neck. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets deep 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), enabling tumors to be treated without surgery. This destruction can be done to completely destroy the target or to partially treat it. Partial treatment is believed to stimulate the patient’s immune response, which may have a broader impact.

A second mechanism is to pre-treat the tumor with pulsed focused ultrasound which may enable improved therapeutic absorption.

Another mechanism is the use of focused ultrasound to produce local hyperthermia, which may improve the effectiveness of radiation treatment and chemotherapy absorption.

The primary option for treatment of tumors of the head and neck is invasive surgery, although radiation, chemotherapy or other pharmaceuticals may also be used.

For certain patients, focused ultrasound could provide a noninvasive alternative to surgery with less risk of complications – such as surgical wound healing or infection – at a lower cost. It can reach the desired target without damaging surrounding tissue and is repeatable, if necessary. Focused ultrasound also enables an enhanced chemotherapy dose for the target, with less impact to the rest of the patient.

Clinical Trials

clinical trial for patients who have cancer with metastases to the lymph nodes in the head and neck is underway at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, Canada. This study is only open to Canadian residents. 

second clinical trial for patients who have cancer of the head or neck is underway at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Canada. This study is only open to Canadian residents.

clinical trial is recruiting patients with solid tumors with metastatic lesions, including head and neck squamous cell cancer, at the University of Virginia.

A clinical trial is recruiting patients with refractory pain from head and neck cancer at the University of Virginia. 

For a full list of head and neck tumor clinical trials, please see here.

See here for a list of treatment sites
See here for a list of clinical trials sites
See here for a list of laboratory research sites

Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement

Focused ultrasound treatment for head and neck tumors is not yet approved by regulatory bodies or covered by medical insurance companies.

Notable Papers

Yang D, Chen Q, Zhang M, Feng G, Sun D, Lin L, Jing X. Drug-Loaded Acoustic Nanodroplet for Dual-Imaging Guided Highly Efficient Chemotherapy Against Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma. Int J Nanomedicine. 2022 Oct 18;17:4879-4894. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S377514. eCollection 2022.

Mohammadabadi A, Huynh RN, Wadajkar AS, Lapidus RG, Kim AJ, Raub CB, Frenkel V. Pulsed focused ultrasound lowers interstitial fluid pressure and increases nanoparticle delivery and penetration in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma xenograft tumors. Phys Med Biol. 2020 Jun 22;65(12):125017. doi: 10.1088/1361-6560/ab9705.

Lee J, Farha G, Poon I, Karam I, Higgins K, Pichardo S, Hynynen K, Enepekides D. Magnetic resonance-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound combined with radiotherapy for palliation of head and neck cancer-a pilot study. J Ther Ultrasound. 2016 Apr 2;4:12. doi: 10.1186/s40349-016-0055-x.

Pichardo S, Köhler M, Lee J, Hynynen K. In vivo optimisation study for multi-baseline MR-based thermometry in the context of hyperthermia using MR-guided high intensity focused ultrasound for head and neck applications. Int J Hyperthermia. 2014 Dec;30(8):579-92. doi: 10.3109/02656736.2014.981299.

Wu CY, Chan PC, Chou LS, Chang CW, Yang FY, Liu RS, Chiou SH, Chen YW, Yen SH, Wang HE. Pulsed-focused ultrasound enhances boron drug accumulation in a human head and neckcancer xenograft-bearing mouse model. Mol Imaging Biol. 2014 Feb;16(1):95-101. doi: 10.1007/s11307-013-0675-2.

Click here for additional references from PubMed.

Clinical Trials