Prostate cancer future or investigational therapies

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

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Other Procedural Options

High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU)

HIFU for prostate cancer utilizes high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to ablate/destroy the tissue of the prostate. During the HIFU procedure, sound waves are used to heat the prostate tissue thus destroying the cancerous cells. Essentially, ultrasonic waves are precisely focused on specific areas of the prostate to eliminate the prostate cancer with minimal risks of affecting other tissue or organs. Temperatures at the focal point of the sound waves can exceed 100 °C (212 °F).[1] In lay terms, the HIFU technology is similar to using a magnifying glass to burn a piece of paper by focusing sunlight at a small precise point on the sheet. The ability to focus the ultrasonic waves leads to a relatively low occurrence of both incontinence and impotence. (0.6% and 0-20%, respectively)[2] According to international studies, when compared to other procedures, HIFU has a high success rate with a reduced risk of side effects. Studies using the Sonablate 500 HIFU machine have shown that 94% of patients with a pretreatment PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) of less than 10 ng/mL were cancer-free after three years.[2] However, many studies of HIFU were performed by manufacturers of HIFU devices, or members of manufacturers' advisory panels.[3]

HIFU was first used in the 1940s and 1950s in efforts to destroy tumors in the central nervous system. Since then, HIFU has been shown to be effective at destroying malignant tissue in the brain, prostate, spleen, liver, kidney, breast, and bone.[1] Today, the HIF procedure for prostate cancer is performed using a transrectal probe. This procedure has been performed for over ten years and is currently approved for use in Japan, Europe, Canada, and parts of Central and South America.

Although not yet approved for use in the Unites States, many patients have received the HIFU procedure at facilities in Canada, and Central and South America. Currently, therapy is available using the Sonablate 500 or the Ablatherm. The Sonablate 500 is designed by Focus Surgery of Indianapolis, Indiana and is used in international HIFU centers around the world.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Thomas A. Gardner and Michael A Koch, Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis. Prostate Cancer Therapy with High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound-Comprehensive Review. Clinical Genitourinary Cancer Vol 4. No.3, 2005.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Toyoaki Uchida, et al. Five years experience of transrectal high-intensity focused ultrasound using the Sonablate device in the treatment of localized prostate cancer. Dept of Urology University of Tokai Hachioji Hospital. International Journal of Urology
  3. Tom Pickles, Larry Goldenberg, Gary Steinhoff. High Intensity Focused Ultrasound for Prostate Cancer. British Columbia Cancer Agency

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