Foundation-funded Fellow is Pioneering New Treatment for Urological Cancer Patients


Watching patients suffer from metastatic prostate cancer motivated Sarfraz Ahmad, MBBS, PhD, MRCSI, MRCSEd to pursue a career in urological surgery. His belief in focused ultrasound’s ability to help those patients propelled him to apply for a two-year Foundation fellowship, which he received in August 2011.

In his fellowship application, Ahmad wrote: “I truly believe that treatment based on the principles of ultrasound energy has a great future. This is not only a minimally invasive intervention but also can be repeated without any significant side effects. This is in contrast to current treatment options such as radiotherapy and use of opoids as pain killers. I am committed to academic urology with a focus on MRgHIFU treatment in localised and metastatic prostate cancer treatment.”

Ahmad is pursuing his fellowship training at the University of Dundee’s Institute of Medical Science and Technology (IMSaT), under the guidance of two mentors, Andreas Melzer, MD and Ghulam Nabis, MD.    

His key fellowship goal is to assess focused ultrasound as a treatment for pain caused by urological cancers that metastasize to the bone. To do so, he is planning to launch a non-randomized pilot clinical trial at IMSaT’s Ninewells Hospital involving 20 patients.

IMSat is the site of GE’s first European state-of-the-art MRI-guided Interventions and Surgery suite and has been conducting a variety of preclinical research projects. Ahmad has participated in simulation training on the center’s ExAblate 2100 – the focused ultrasound system that he will use to perform clinical trial treatments. “This training has provided a valuable exercise and it will be helpful in future application of the technique in patients,” he says.   

Since beginning his fellowship studies six months ago, Ahmad has engaged in an extensive study of the principles of focused ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging as well as their application in urology. He has also completed several research projects, one of which involved 3-D modeling and simulation of high intensity focused ultrasound for renal tissue ablation and its impact for extracorporeal treatment of renal cancer. Ahmad presented a paper based on this work at the 2011 British Association of Urology meeting.

“Working on this project provided excellent opportunity to understand application of focused ultrasound in treatment of urological cancers,” he notes. “The experience from this work will be valuable in the application of focused ultrasound for treatments of bony metastases.”

During the next six months of his Foundation-funded fellowship, Ahmad will continue training on the ExAblate system at IMSaT. He will also be a visiting fellow at focused ultrasound centers in Singapore and Rome. At Singapore General Hospital, he will observe Christopher Cheng, MD perform focused ultrasound treatments for prostate cancer. At the University of Rome, he will receive training from Alessandro Napoli, MD in the treatment of patients with bone metastases.  

Written by Ellen C., McKenna