Sound beams can destroy cancer tissue
Jeremy Laurance is a writer on health issues. He is former health editor of The Independent and the i and has covered the specialism for more than 20 years. He thinks the harm medicine does is under-appreciated, the harm it prevents over-rated, and that cycling works better than most drugs. He was named Specialist Journalist of the Year in the 2011 British Press Awards.
Monday 09 November 1998
The technique involves a high-intensity ultrasound beam about 10,000 times more powerful than that used to show pregnant women the developing foetus in the womb.
The beam is focused on a point inside the body where it "cooks" malignant tissue without harming neighbouring healthy tissue. A shot lasting one or two seconds raises the temperature to more than 55C, high enough to destroy the cells in the target area.
The technique is also being developed for the treatment of soldiers wounded in battle. Four in 10 battlefield deaths are caused by internal bleeding. A device that could "spot weld" damaged blood vessels in the field would save many lives.
Researchers at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London have used the technique experimentally on 23 patients with prostate, kidney and liver cancers. The treatment required no anaesthetic and caused nothing more than a slight tingling in the prostate gland, which the men involved described as "not unpleasant".
The patients all had advanced disease and the experiment was carried out only to see how well the treatment was tolerated.
Robert Shearer, medical director of the Royal Marsden and a consultant urologist who was involved in the trial, said: "It does seem to produce destruction of malignant tissue with minimal side-effects."
The technique, known as High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, uses transducers to produce the powerful energies required. The beam can be focused to a depth of 15 centimetres. It is so precise it is sharper than a scalpel.
Mr Shearer said the device, described in The Lancet, could be in use within two or three years to treat patients with advanced cancer which had spread to other organs, but it would need to be evaluatedcarefully to see if it extended survival.
"It is absolutely fascinating. It may be used for tissue destruction of metastatic disease [cancer which has spread]. But it may have an even more important role on the battlefield," he said.
American researchers funded by the military are hoping to develop a portable ultrasound device to locate and treat internal haemorrhages. A team at the University of Washington in Seattle has experimented on pigs' livers, creating a wall of cauterised tissue that allowed a thick lobe to be cut away with minimal bleeding.
Mr Shearer said: "The aim is to develop a device to stabilise a patient where they were injured and then get them back to a medical centre where they could be tidied up."
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Putin opponent reveals Russian President's daughter's secret identity
Ball pool for adults opens in London
Gay couple buy JebBushForPresident.com web domain, and refuse to sell
Canadian woman suing police who locked her in van with sex offender who then raped her
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: We are currently looking for a Geog...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...