Philips promotes study of MR-HIFU for breast cancer

The University Medical Center Utrecht of the Netherlands and Royal Philips Electronics, parent company of Philips Healthcare, have announced they have started a pilot clinical study to evaluate the use of MR-guided high intensity focused ultrasound (MR-HIFU) as a treatment for breast cancer.

To facilitate this study, Philips has built a dedicated investigational system optimized for the anatomy of the female breast. The Diakonessenhuis Hospital in Utrecht also is involved with the study, and its patients with small breast tumors that have not metastasized are being recruited.

The objective of the study is to assess the image quality of the MR-HIFU system, its safety, and the precision of the technique for breast tumor treatment.

MR-HIFU directs sound energy into a tumor, which dissipates in the tumor and generates heat. The technique is capable of achieving tissue temperatures in excess of 65° C, a temperature high enough to kill tumor cells without damaging the surrounding tissue.

MRI provides real-time imaging of soft-tissue structures, enabling the HIFU beam to accurately focus on the tumor. It also spatially maps local tissue temperatures to provide real-time feedback for controlling the applied temperature profiles.

An advantage of the MR-HIFU technique is that the treatment is noninvasive and can be performed without any surgical incisions. For the study, however, a surgical procedure will be performed to verify the precision of the treatment.

This study is part of a larger 11 million euro ($14 million U.S.) Dutch research program, predominantly funded by the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine. The Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) and Philips also are contributors.

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