War on Breast Cancer: New Study
With cancer treatment, the goal is to kill or remove every cancer cell while leaving all the other healthy cells unharmed. Current therapies for breast cancer are variably successful in achieving this goal, and exploration of new improved, more effective and less harmful therapy is an on-going proposition. There are many ways of killing cancer cells – none perfect yet!
A recently revealed protocol involving ultrasound and MRI technology is an example of exploring a new way of fighting cancer. This is cool: ultrasound, when highly focused and appropriately guided (here by MRI) can kill cancer cells – including breast cancer. Now, using these technologies together to fight cancer is not new (cancers of the liver among others are earlier targets), but this latest research into the breast cancer domain specifically has had promising results. Here’s the low-down:
In this technique called MR guided focused ultrasound (abbreviated MRgFUS), ultrasound is targeted directly at the cancer in the breast. Ultrasound when focused can cause heating of cells and eventual cell death – yes we tend to think of ultrasound as completely without harm, and with appropriate use in a diagnostic setting that is true. For cancer therapy with the new technique, the local heating and killing of cells is guided by MRI. MRI can detect the changes in temperature, allowing precise control on the length of use and thereby limiting the effects on adjacent healthy tissues.
This was an initial exploration of the technique in 12 women who had surgery following the therapy. In 10 women, excellent results were achieved with no residual cancer cells found in the breast. This initial study needs further exploration in larger populations of breast cancer patients to help determine if this initial success can be reproduced, and in which women this technique will provide the most benefit.
Thanks, science. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
Originally published 12/10/13 on mammographykc.com.