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. Where the beams converge, the ultrasound produces a variety of therapeutic effects enabling the patient to be treated without incisions or radiation.
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.
A trial at the University of Virginia is evaluating the use of high-intensity focused ultrasound combined with pembrolizumab in patients with metastatic breast cancer. One-half of participants will be randomized to receive the first dose of pembrolizumab after focused ultrasound and one-half of participants will be randomized to receive their first dose of pembrolizumab before focused ultrasound. More information on the study can be found here.
Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement
The Model JC system manufactured by Chongqing Haifu has been approved in Europe treatment of breast cancer.
Focused ultrasound treatment for patients with breast cancer is not universally reimbursed by medical insurers.
Preclinical Laboratory Studies
Preclinical studies are underway to investigate the use of non-ablation mechanisms of focused ultrasound in the treatment of breast cancer. Examples of these studies include:
- Focused ultrasound to induce an immune response that could be combined with immunotherapeutics (e.g. checkpoint inhibitors) to treat both local and systemic disease.
- Focused ultrasound to enable targeted delivery and/or activation of drugs via carrier vehicles (e.g. microbubbles, nanoparticles, liposomes) to enable delivery of high concentrations in the tumor with minimal systemic side effects.
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