HIFU zaps prostate cancer

LOS ANGELES – Until now, the standard treatment for prostate cancer patients was surgical removal or radiation of the entire prostate. 

For the past few years, high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, has been an option for some patients. 

But now, a newly-designed device is allowing doctors to treat patients with targeted therapy, in real time. 

Jeff Nelson suspected he'd get prostate cancer, since his brother, uncle, and two cousins had it. 

But when he was diagnosed, he chose the newest technology that treats only the cancer, no healthy tissue. 

"If it wasn't for the catheter, I swear, walking out of that hospital that day, I felt pretty much normal," Nelson said.  

Dr. Edward Uchio, FACS, CP, Jerry D. Choate Chair in Urologic Oncology, Director of Clinical Research, Department of Urology at the University of California, Irvine, is pioneering the use of the Focal One high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU.  

It was appropriate for Nelson because his cancer was detected early and localized to one area of the prostate.

"Because we knew that it could be one side, just one area of the prostate, we can actually treat focally just in that area," Uchio said.

Uchio first uses a specialized MRI system that gives him a 3D image of the cancer. He uses that to precisely target the treatment area. 

"You can actually focus the ultrasound waves and heat up the cancer and actually kill the cancer within the prostate," Uchio said.

Nelson's PSA level dropped from 7.3 to 6.1 after the procedure, and he's hoping it goes even lower. He's telling his friends about HIFU and urging them to get checked.

"If you address it early, you can go through a simple procedure like I've gone through. And it's nothing," he said. 

And nothing is what he hopes Uchio finds when he returns for a checkup biopsy in a few months. 

Uchio emphasizes that HIFU is for localized cancers that aren't aggressive. 

He did the first HIFU procedure in the U.S. with the Focal One device. Uchio said the technology, which was approved the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is too new to assess long-term results. 

Recurrence is possible, but patients would most likely be able to avoid a radical treatment.