Therapy that heats and destroys bone tumors eases patients' pain

Patients with cancer that has spread to their bones are often treated with radiation therapy to reduce pain. But if that treatment doesn't work, or can't be used again, a second, effective option now exists. Results of a clinical trial on the new therapy, presented by a researcher at Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center, is being presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Mark Hurwitz, MD, Director of Thermal Oncology for the Department of at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital reported that the treatment, -guided focused ultrasound (MRIgFU) , significantly reduced pain in 67 percent of patients who received the treatment. The device, known as ExAblate, uses numerous small ultrasound beams designed to converge on a tumor within bone, heat it and destroy it.

"Pain is a common, often debilitating symptom of the spread of cancer to bones. We are pleased to now have a second therapy that can improve a patient's enjoyment of life," says Dr. Hurwitz, who led the clinical trial. A number of cancers spread to bones, and a substantial proportion of patients live for years with these , which can have a profound impact on a patient's quality of life, he adds.

The findings of the trial led to approval of ExAblate last October by the U.S. as second-line therapy for palliation of painful metastatic bone tumors. The first-line therapy is typically radiotherapy.

"The response to ExAblate was as good as radiotherapy, which was notable because it is very unusual to see a second-line treatment with a response rate that is as high as first-line therapy," Dr. Hurwitz says.

He added that use of ExAblate offers several advantages compared to other ablative therapies. "It is non-invasive and provides more detailed anatomic information so that we can visualize the complete beam path to make sure that critical structures such as vessels and nerves are not in the way," Dr. Hurwitz says. "We are also able to monitor the temperature in the tumor as well as in nearby normal tissues so that we do not inadvertently heat normal organs and tissues."

ExAblate has also been approved for treatment of uterine fibroids.

The study led by Dr. Hurwitz is a multicenter, randomized and placebo-controlled phase three clinical trial. The 142 patients enrolled could either not undergo, or had not responded to, radiation treatment.

Three months after ExAblate therapy, 67 percent of treated patients reported significant improvement in pain, compared to 21 percent in the placebo arm. They typically rated their pain as "much improved" or "very much improved," Dr. Hurwitz says. A quality of life assessment also measured significant improvement.

"The treatment is given just once, and a response occurs within days," he says. "There are a lot of patients who could potentially benefit from MR guided focused ultrasound."

Related Stories

New technique alleviates painful bone metastases

date May 31, 2013

A high-dose of ultrasound targeted to painful bone metastases appears to quickly bring patients relief, and with largely tolerable side effects, according to new research presented by Fox Chase Cancer Center scientists at ...

ASCO: combo antibody therapy effective for melanoma

date May 17, 2013

(HealthDay)—Concurrent use of two immune checkpoint antibodies—ipilimumab and nivolumab—may be effective for the treatment of advanced melanoma, according to a proof-of-principal study presented in ...

Recommended for you

Spicy treatment the answer to aggressive cancer?

date Jul 03, 2015

It has been treasured by food lovers for thousands of years for its rich golden colour, peppery flavour and mustardy aroma…and now turmeric may also have a role in fighting cancer.

Cancer survivors who smoke perceive less risk from tobacco

date Jul 02, 2015

Cancer survivors who smoke report fewer negative opinions about smoking, have more barriers to quitting, and are around other smokers more often than survivors who had quit before or after their diagnosis, according to a ...

Melanoma mutation rewires cell metabolism

date Jul 02, 2015

A mutation found in most melanomas rewires cancer cells' metabolism, making them dependent on a ketogenesis enzyme, researchers at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have discovered.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.