Can Ultrasound Reduce Cancer Pain?

logo1267406_mdA new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that a new phase III Clinical trial shows that non-invasive magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound treatment that heats the cancer within the bone, relieves pain and improves function for most patients.  When cancer progresses and spreads to the bone patients often experience debilitating pain  Although previously used for treatment of women with uterine fibroids, this is the first time this treatment has been used for cancer and is considered a safe treatment.  Radiation therapy has been used for cancer pain in bones but it is not effective for all patients and some patients reach a maximum of radiation and still have pain. In addition some patients over time may have a recurrence of pain after having radiation.

In the study 147 patients from 17 centers in several countries were enrolled and randomized to undergo the magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound surgery or to undergo a sham treatment (the controls). Those in the treatment group received ultrasound precisely targeted to the bone tumors to heat the tumor to between 65 and 85 degrees Celsius, resulting in its destruction. During each treatment patients were monitored via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to ensure the right tissues were targeted and the right temperatures were reached while ensuring heat  in the surrounding normal tissues and organs remained at safe levels. The control group went through the same process but without the ultra sound device turned on. After two weeks the patients in the control group who did not respond were  offered the ultrasound treatment.

Results showed that 64% of the experimental group experienced either no pain or a significant reduction in their pain at three months as measured by a 2 point or greater decrease in the numeric rating score for pain on a clinically validated measurement tool. Many were able to stop or reduce medications and most patients experienced pain relief and improved functioning within several days of treatment. Researchers said”It is clear that for many of these patients, pain has a major impact on their everyday lives.” “This approach offers a new way to help alleviate that pain via an out-=patient non-invasive procedure.” . Further research is planned to improve the success rate.

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