Focused ultrasound therapy eases cancer pain

MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) therapy can safely reduce or eliminate pain from bone metastases, according to research published online April 23 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In a randomized phase III study of 147 patients from 17 centers in the U.S., Canada, Israel, Italy, and Russia, a research team led by Dr. Mark Hurwitz of Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) found that InSightec's MRgFUS system reduced or eliminated pain from bone metastases in nearly two-thirds of patients who had not responded to standard treatments.

Patients in the treatment group of the study received MRI-targeted focused ultrasound to destroy bone tumors by heating tumor tissue to between 65° C and 85° C. The control group underwent the same procedure but without the ultrasound device turned on, according to TJU. Patients who did not respond to the placebo treatment within two weeks were allowed to be unblended and offered MRgFUS, the university said.

Of the patients who received treatment, 64% experienced either no pain or a significant reduction in their pain at three months as measured by a two-point or greater decrease in the numeric rating score for pain. Many patients were able to reduce or discontinue use of opioid medications. Most patients experienced pain relief and improved functioning within several days of treatment, TJU noted.

The researchers will now work to refine the treatment technique to get an even greater response rate and to apply radiation and thermal therapy together in the treatment of bone metastases. To provide patients with access to thermal therapies, the university has opened a new program for thermal oncology within its department of radiation oncology.

The study was supported by InSightec, and Hurwitz has provided expert testimony on behalf of InSightec for the purpose of regulatory approval, according to TJU.

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