Highly-Focused Ultrasound- Palliative Therapy for Metastasized Prostate and Breast Cancer?

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 Prostate specialists there used high-intensity focused ultrasound to blast cells in his bones that were triggering his pain

When breast and prostate cancers metastasize or spread, they often spread to the patient’s bones. Bone mets can be very painful. Traditionally the only solution was opioids aka painkillers. Pain pills come with lots of problems. Ask anyone who has taken them for long periods of time.

When my cancer, multiple myeloma, relapsed in September of 1996, it spread to my sacrum and iliac crest- my hip bones. The cancer was manageable. The pain was not. The solution? Local palliative radiation. Radiation to zap the lesions in my hip bones. Radiation cured the pain but caused all sorts of long-term side effects.

A little-known fact about palliative care is that this therapy can buy you time and quality of life so that you can pursue curative cancer therapies. HIFU therapy for bone pain will not cure your cancer but it may buy you time to find curative therapies.

Eventually, I found and underwent therapies that put me into complete remission where I am today.

HIFU therapy for bone pain is still in the evaluation or trial phase as of today, 1/29/16. But there are several clinical trials testing this therapy.

I am both a cancer survivor and cancer coach. Scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.


David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancerCoaching

Recommended Reading:

What Is a HIFU Procedure?

“A high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) procedure is a technique approved by the FDA to remove prostate tissue. Though it hasn’t been approved for the treatment of prostate cancer in the U.S., it is being used in clinical trials to treat it.

Researchers are still figuring out how well it works and its side effects.

You may hear your doctor call it “minimally invasive,” which means a surgeon doesn’t have to cut you open.

Men with cancer that hasn’t spread beyond the prostate may get the surgery. Your doctor may suggest it either before you’ve tried other treatments or after radiation therapy that didn’t help. It’s not used when your cancer has spread to other parts of your body…

Breast Tumors, Malignant-Focused Ultrasound Therapy

“Focused ultrasound is an early stage, noninvasive therapeutic technology with the potential to improve the quality of life and decrease the cost of care for patients with breast cancer. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets in the body without damaging surrounding normal tissue.

How it Works
Where the beams converge, focused ultrasound produces several therapeutic effects that are being evaluated. One mechanism is precise ablation (thermal destruction of tissue). The goal could be complete ablation of the cancer, or it can be done partially. Partial ablation may help awaken the immune system for a more generalized response. A second mechanism is to promote the targeted release of therapeutic treatments in the region of the tumor.

Current treatment options for breast cancer include combinations of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or targeted drug therapies.

Focused ultrasound – used alone and in combination with other therapies – is being investigated to treat breast cancer.

Potential advantages as compared to current treatments:

  • Focused ultrasound is noninvasive and therefore has reduced risk for infection and blood clots, and potential for shorter recovery time.
  • Precise targeting minimizes damage to non-targeted healthy tissue.
  • No ionizing radiation, enabling repeat treatment if necessary.
  • Treatment can be a complement to drug therapy, enabling enhanced delivery of chemotherapy or immunotherapy to tumors.
  • May potentially induce an anti-tumor immune response.

Noninvasive treatment of malignant bone tumors using high-intensity focused ultrasound.

“High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a new, noninvasive technique with potential to ablate and inactivate tumors. Treatment of solid tumors with HIFU has been reported. In this study, the safety and effects of HIFU in the clinical therapy of malignant bone tumors were assessed…

HIFU safely and noninvasively ablated malignant bone tumors and relieved pain. HIFU ablation should be further investigated, as it appears to be successful in the treatment of primary malignant bone tumors.”

Experimental ultrasound treatment zaps cancer pain

“Specialists there used high-intensity focused ultrasound to blast cells in her bones that were triggering her pain. Rogers was part of a small clinical trial testing the new therapy, and she says it made a remarkable difference…”

To read those clinical trials testing HIFU for bone pain click here. 

Metastatic Bone Disease Treatment & Management

Approach Considerations– Most patients with metastatic bone disease should be cared for in conjunction with a medical oncologist and the use of radiation oncology. Because the lifespan of patients with metastatic bone disease is limited, the goal of management must center on returning as much function as possible as rapidly as possible…

Osteoclastic bone resorption can be modified by bisphosphonates; these substances are presently being used in the management of metastatic breast carcinoma and multiple myeloma. [1, 20] Future research and modification of RANK ligand (RANKL) is expected to produce additional substances that can further arrest or retard bone destruction by metastatic disease.

Image-guided percutaneous cryoablation is a lasting, safe, and effective treatment for the alleviation of painful metastatic tumors involving bone. In a study of 61 adult patients with one or two painful bone metastases (Brief Pain Inventory score ≥4 in a 24-hour period) who had refused or who had had ineffective conventional treatment, pain scores decreased significantly at 1, 4, 8, and 24 weeks following percutaneous image-guided cryoablation. [21] Of the 61 patients treated with this procedure, only one had a major complication (osteomyelitis at the ablation site)...




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High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) for Pancreatic Cancer - PeopleBeatingCancer says 5 years ago

[…] Highly-Focused Ultrasound- Palliative Therapy for Metastasized Prostate and Breast Cancer? […]

Proteolytic Enzymes as Lymphedema Therapy says 6 years ago

[…] Highly-Focused Ultrasound- Palliative Therapy for Metastasized Prostate and Breast Cancer? […]

Kris Mills says 6 years ago

I have a friend who has metastatic breast cancer that has gone to the bone. At the present time she suffers from excruciating pain as the cancer is in the coxis area. She has just had an implant for pain management but I am wondering if this HIFU treatment could help her. Today her pain was not even bearable. Is this treatment a possibility?

    David Emerson says 6 years ago

    Hi Kris,

    I am sorry to read of your friend’s bone pain. Though my cancer is different from your friend’s I too experienced bone pain in my sacrum/iliac crest.

    Several possible therapies for her to consider. According to the articles linked in that post, yes, HIFU therapy has been shown to zap bone mets.I don’t know where your friend lives but I think there are two clinical trials going on in Toronto for this therapy. Further, while I was updating that article researching current metastatic bone therapies I found a current article on cryotherapy also used to kill bone metastasis.

    Lastly, your friend should be undergoing bisphosphonate therapy. Bis. therapy is common for newly diagnosed patients with my cancer because of the prevalence of bone destruction. Your friend’s oncologist may have already discussed this therapy with her.

    If you would like I can forward articles about CBD (medical marijuana) for pain management. I work with several survivors who use CBD oil with and without opioids for cancer pain management.

    Let me know. Thanks.

    David Emerson

Marcella says 6 years ago

My father has prostate cancer that spread to his lymph nodes and bones. He is in a lot of pain. He is 90 years old, still mobile with his brain intact. Wondering if this treatment could help him and read that sometime in 2017 Medicare issued a payment code on this meaning they will pay on certain claims on an individualized basis. Any info you have on this treatment and on insurance coverage would be helpful to us..Thank you!

    David Emerson says 6 years ago

    Hi Marcella,

    I am sorry to learn of your father’s metastatic prostate cancer. Yes, if I read the study correctly, HIFU therapy can zap the cancer in your father’s bones making him feel less pain.

    You will face two challenges. First, since not every hospital or doctor’s office offers HIFU therapy, you and your dad will have to locate and travel to a clinic that offers HIFU therapy.

    Second, you are right on. Getting Medicare to pay for your dad’s HIFU therapy may be a challenge. My understanding of billing is that 1) your doctor must order or prescribe the therapy. Secondly, if your payment or reimbursement is denied, I understand that you may be successful in subsequent attempts. Lastly, and this is just a thought I had, consider finding a “palliative” doctor. Meaning, no therapy can cure your dad once his PCa has metastasized. But your dad should receive palliative therapies such as HIFU in order to control any bone pain he may have.

    The field of palliative therapy is designed, not to cure, but to manage symptoms. Medicare may be more sympathetic to a palliative doctor than to a regular MD. Maybe…

    Good luck,

    David Emerson

Stage Four Prostate Cancer- Bone Mets- says 8 years ago

[…] Thank you and good luck- David Emerson Survivor, Creator, Cancer Coach HIFU for bone mets pain- the ultimate palliative therapy?  “Could this Highly Focused Ultrasound or HIFU be the ultimate palliative therapy?When […]

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