The University of Toledo Medical Center is offering an innovative new outpatient treatment for prostate cancer that uses ultrasound waves to precisely target and destroy cancerous areas while leaving nearby healthy tissue untouched.
Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men, affecting roughly one out of nine American men during their lifetimes.
Because prostate cancer is often slow-growing, many patients diagnosed with localized cancer take a wait-and-see approach in which the cancer is closely monitored but not immediately treated.
Patients who do elect treatment have traditionally had two options — radiation therapy or surgical removal of the prostate. Those aggressive treatments are effective but often bring serious side effects, including incontinence and sexual dysfunction.
By focusing ultrasound waves on areas as small as a grain of rice, physicians at UTMC can now destroy tumors while minimizing the potential for harming important structures such as nerves responsible for erections, the urinary sphincter, glands responsible for producing semen and non-cancerous prostate tissue.
“In very few cancers do we take out the whole organ rather than removing the cancer itself,” said Dr. Puneet Sindhwani, a board-certified urologist at UTMC and chair and Kenneth Kropp Endowed Professor of Urology at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Combining more precise biopsy techniques with high-intensity focused ultrasound provides us an opportunity to treat only the area where we found the cancer and spare the rest of the prostate, reducing the risk of side effects.”
High-intensity focused ultrasound, commonly known as HIFU, has been available in Europe for nearly two decades but is relatively new in the United States.
UTMC is the first and only medical facility in the Toledo region using the state-of-the-art Sonablate device to treat prostate cancer.
“Unlike radical surgery of the prostate where patients may need to be admitted to the hospital, or radiation treatment which requires repeated visits for treatment, another advantage of HIFU is that it can be done in an outpatient setting in one visit,” Sindhwani said. “It is very important in the face of COVID-19 that we minimize patient exposure and also save important care resources for patients who need admission with life-threatening conditions.”
While the technology is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for destruction of prostate tissue, approval specifically for treating prostate cancer is pending U.S. trials. At this time, Medicare covers only part of the treatment and most private insurance providers don’t cover the treatment expenses. Individuals should check with their insurance provider.
To help make the treatment available in Toledo, the University received a generous grant for urologic innovation from Dr. Ashok Kar, a California-based urologist who completed his surgery and urology training at the former Medical College of Ohio.