Prostate cancer affects 1 in 9 men in the US, but now a breakthrough imaging technique will allow physicians to zap tumors with unprecedented accuracy.
As part of the Cedars-Sinai Precision Health initiative, researchers are testing a system that combines two kinds of imaging with high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to diagnose and remove aggressive prostate tumors.
“This is an exciting breakthrough because HIFU can be directed at cancerous tissue, so the rest of the gland can be spared.”
The pilot study uses high-resolution MRI technology developed at Cedars-Sinai, which improves imaging resolution by nearly 500%, according to researchers.
“We combine this with a PET (positron emission tomography)-MRI scan to precisely map prostate cancers,” says Dr. Hyung Kim, director of the Academic Urology Program.
Cedars-Sinai has the only PET-MRI machine in Southern California.
The combined images reveal abnormal areas of the prostate in a way conventional MRIs cannot. An MRI-ultrasound fusion biopsy is then performed and, if the tumor is high-grade, HIFU is used to destroy the diseased tissue.
“This is an exciting breakthrough because HIFU can be directed at cancerous tissue, so the rest of the gland can be spared,” Dr. Kim says. “That may lower the rates of incontinence and erectile dysfunction seen with radical prostatectomy.”
Patients will also benefit from the noninvasive diagnostic process that removes the need to cut or puncture tissue. For patients with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, HIFU may one day be a standard option, according to Dr. Kim.
Could it be a breakthrough for other cancers too? It’s likely.
“The combination of better imaging and focused ablation should work for other solid tumors, like kidney cancer, lung cancer, and liver cancer,” Dr. Kim says.