At the recent American Urological Association conference, there was significant discussion surrounding high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), a potential new treatment for prostate cancer. Affecting approximately one in six men, prostate cancer is a frighteningly common diagnosis, although only a fraction of men diagnosed with the condition will die from it. This is probably not, however, super comforting to those men told that they have this cancer.
Traditionally, early-stage prostate cancer has been treated by removing the prostate entirely; however, this treatment option is associated with a number of potential complications, including impotence or incontinence. Recently, however, a number of other less invasive options have become more common, including brachytherapy, cryoablation, and HIFU. Of these treatments, brachytherapy is performed the most commonly, although cryoablation and HIFU are gaining increasing attention because these treatments are more targeted, thereby preserving surrounding tissue. These treatments also don't involve radiation, which patients are exposed to through brachytherapy. Cryoablation is still, however, in the early stages of development, and companies were only just seeking approval for focal cryoablation in the US (it was not available in Europe as of early 2012 either).
On the other hand, HIFU is emerging as a particularly promising treatment option. In Europe, early adoption of HIFU has been very encouraging, and the proportion of procedures using brachytherapy will continue to decline as urologists increasingly opt for HIFU. MRG predicts that HIFU will be used in approximately 5,660 procedures in 2016 in France, Germany, Italy, and the UK. As of right now, this treatment is not available in the US, but it looks promising that it will be approved soon two clinical trials are currently ongoing in the US in order to determine the safety and efficacy of this innovative treatment for prostate cancer.
In a Canadian twist, American patients are actually coming up to Canada to undergo HIFU, an indicator of the growth potential that would exist if this product received US FDA approval.
As a proud Torontonian, I'm happy to report that our own Princess Margaret Hospital has been a driving force in research in this area according to a Toronto newspaper, anyway!
In any event, this is absolutely exciting news for prostate cancer patients, although it may not be great news for manufacturers of brachytherapy seeds.