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Hammersmith Hospital offers new treatment

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Doctors at Hammersmith Hospital have used advanced ultrasound technology to destroy part of a rectal tumour – the first time the treatment has been used anywhere in the world.

A team of radiologists, surgeons and oncologists performed the procedure with high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), which uses sound waves to heat up and kill cancerous tissues.

The procedure gives cancer patients hope of an alternative to surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“We expect HIFU will prove to be faster and more accurate at targeting tumours than conventional treatments, while minimising the damage to surrounding non-cancerous tissue. As there is no incision made during the procedure, it’s completely non-invasive so recovery time will be quicker too," said research study leader for HIFU Professor Paul Abel.

The first patient to have the procedure had a low 'dose' of heat to kill the rectal cancer tissue (70°C). Clinicians will closely monitor patients receiving the treatment to find out which temperature is the most effective. Unlike radiotherapy, HIFU treatment can be given to a patient a number of times with a minimal level of risk.

Hammersmith Hospital says it will initially offer HIFU to patients with advanced-stage rectal cancer who have exhausted all other conventional treatment options.

"As this is the first time this procedure has ever been performed for rectal cancer, we need to study a wider group of patients to assess how effective the treatment is and whether it has the potential to be curative or to lengthen a patient’s life. But initially we are using HIFU to improve the quality of patients’ lives and relieve symptoms,” said Professor Abel."

Almost 38,000 patients suffer from rectal cancer per year in the UK. Approximately one-third of these are within the rectum. It is the third most common cause of cancer worldwide.

November 26, 2009

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