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Focused Ultrasound: Heating Up Brain Tumors

When cancer spreads to a person's brain, treatments like radiation and surgery are typically the only options. But they can cause harsh side effects and damage to healthy tissue. Now, doctors are studying a new option and they are heating up brain tumors.

Cynthia Tibbetts was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago. She's been fighting for her life ever since, with her husband by her side.

James Tibbetts, Cynthia's husband told Ivanhoe, "Half of our marriage has been fighting cancer."

Cynthia said, "I was diagnosed stage four."

She's had surgery, chemo, and radiation but the cancer has come back again and again. The last scans showed it spread to Cynthia's brain.

"Six brain tumors. I mean, you talk about getting the wind knocked out of you" James explained.

Now doctors are performing a clinical trial on a new way to treat cancer that's spread to the brain. It's called focused ultrasound.

Stephen Monteith, M.D., Neurosurgeon at Swedish Neuroscience Institute at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington told Ivanhoe, "What we do is we shoot these ultrasound beams into a target deeper than the brain."

The device delivers more than one-thousand beams of ultrasound. The cancer cells heat up to about 190 degrees Fahrenheit and die. Doctors perform MRIs during the treatment.

Charles Cobbs, M.D., Neurosurgeon at Swedish Neuroscience Institute at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle Washington said, "We actually can watch during the MRI scan while the patients' receiving the treatment as the tumor heats up."

Unlike radiation, the ultrasound doesn't damage healthy tissue, and unlike surgery, there's no cutting. Cynthia hopes the new technology will help people like her. She was given six months to live three years ago and is still fighting, and living.

"I want to encourage people to continue to live their lives well. You know, whatever life you have, live it well" Cynthia exclaimed.

The patient is awake for the procedure and only feels warmth on their head. The focused ultrasound technology is being studied for brain tumors that have spread at four sites around the country. This technology is also being looked at for patients with Parkinson's disease and essential tremor.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Marsha Hitchcock, Field Producer; Cortni Spearman, Assistant Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer and Jamison Koczan, Editor.

BACKGROUND:   Breast cancer refers to when cancer forms somewhere in the breast tissue, most commonly beginning in the lining of the milk ducts. Breast cancer can also originate in the milk glands, called lobules, and is considered to be invasive when the cancer spreads to surrounding healthy tissue from where it first began. With more than 200,000 new cases diagnosed in 2013 alone, breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. Men can also develop breast cancer, but it is highly unusual and only 2,240 men were diagnosed with the disease in 2013. Breast cancer is a collection of cancer cells that stem from the cells of the breast. Over 230,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and one in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer. The causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known but like many other forms of cancer, one of the main treatments for breast cancer is chemotherapy and radiation.

(Sources: www.onehealth.com/breast_cancer, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast)

MORE ABOUT CYNTHIA TIBBETTS: Spring of 2003: Cynthia first felt a lump in her left breast. Late summer of 2003: Cynthia has breast examined at which time she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. The following two years Cynthia elects to fight the cancer with non-conventional methods after which she became extremely healthy except for this now large tumor which had ulcerated out of her breast. October, 2005: Scans of her chest reveal a large mass as well as small tumor in her lung, with a Stage IV diagnosis. Since that time, the cancer has come back repeatedly in different areas of her body. Cynthia has undergone numerous rounds of a variety of fractionalized chemotherapy treatments, two surgeries, and multiple rounds of radiation treatment, as well as naturopathic and non-conventional treatments.  February, 2012: Chest scan reveals cancer has engulfed the majority of Cynthia's liver, tumors are found throughout her chest and lung including a large tumor wrapped around her aorta near her heart. July, 2013: Cynthia has her first brain scan; it reveals cancer has spread to her brain revealing six brain tumors (six month diagnosis) Cynthia is a devout Christian and has the amazing ability to live with cancer as well a fearless and steadfast spirit to battle cancer.  She embraces the fight and lives up to her nickname, "Mighty Princess Warrior Cancer Slayer". (Source: James Tibbetts, Cynthia's Husband)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new trial is examining whether focused ultrasound could help contain brain tumor growth and allow for more time between additional therapies compared to stereotactic radiosurgery and chemotherapy. Doctors are actually able to precisely heat up brain tumors and kill them using ultrasound technology. (Source: Press Release)

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:

Clay Holtzman

206-386-2748

Clay.holtzman@swedish.org

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

BACKGROUND:   Breast cancer refers to when cancer forms somewhere in the breast tissue, most commonly beginning in the lining of the milk ducts. Breast cancer can also originate in the milk glands, called lobules, and is considered to be invasive when the cancer spreads to surrounding healthy tissue from where it first began. With more than 200,000 new cases diagnosed in 2013 alone, breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. Men can also develop breast cancer, but it is highly unusual and only 2,240 men were diagnosed with the disease in 2013. Breast cancer is a collection of cancer cells that stem from the cells of the breast. Over 230,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and one in every eight women in the United States develops breast cancer. The causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known but like many other forms of cancer, one of the main treatments for breast cancer is chemotherapy and radiation.

(Sources: www.onehealth.com/breast_cancer, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast)

MORE ABOUT CYNTHIA TIBBETTS: Spring of 2003: Cynthia first felt a lump in her left breast. Late summer of 2003: Cynthia has breast examined at which time she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. The following two years Cynthia elects to fight the cancer with non-conventional methods after which she became extremely healthy except for this now large tumor which had ulcerated out of her breast. October, 2005: Scans of her chest reveal a large mass as well as small tumor in her lung, with a Stage IV diagnosis. Since that time, the cancer has come back repeatedly in different areas of her body. Cynthia has undergone numerous rounds of a variety of fractionalized chemotherapy treatments, two surgeries, and multiple rounds of radiation treatment, as well as naturopathic and non-conventional treatments.  February, 2012: Chest scan reveals cancer has engulfed the majority of Cynthia's liver, tumors are found throughout her chest and lung including a large tumor wrapped around her aorta near her heart. July, 2013: Cynthia has her first brain scan; it reveals cancer has spread to her brain revealing six brain tumors (six month diagnosis) Cynthia is a devout Christian and has the amazing ability to live with cancer as well a fearless and steadfast spirit to battle cancer.  She embraces the fight and lives up to her nickname, "Mighty Princess Warrior Cancer Slayer". (Source: James Tibbetts, Cynthia's Husband)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new trial is examining whether focused ultrasound could help contain brain tumor growth and allow for more time between additional therapies compared to stereotactic radiosurgery and chemotherapy. Doctors are actually able to precisely heat up brain tumors and kill them using ultrasound technology. (Source: Press Release)

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:

Clay Holtzman

206-386-2748

Clay.holtzman@swedish.org

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com