Focused Ultrasound Therapy

Clinical Trials SquareFocused 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 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. Where the beams converge, the ultrasound produces precise ablation (thermal destruction of tissue) enabling tumors to be treated without surgery. (Although tumors of the thyroid is located in the neck, please see the section on thyroid tumors for information on this application.)

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 and lower cost.


  • Focused ultrasound is noninvasive, so it does not carry added concerns like surgical wound healing or infection.
  • Focused ultrasound can reach the desired target without damaging surrounding tissue.
  • Enhanced chemotherapy dose for the target, with less impact to the rest of the patient.
  • It can be repeated, if necessary.

Clinical Trials

A 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. 

A 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

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.

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