For American men, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, behind lung cancer, according to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation (FUSF). The American Cancer Society estimates that one man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, while 1 man in 39 will die of the disease (cancer.org, 2017 statistics).
Santa Rose, California-based urologist, Dr. Michael Lazar, has regularly used high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to treat prostate cancer. According to The Press Democrat’s Guy Kovner (March 23, 2014), Dr. Lazar considers HIFU to be the best treatment for the disease. Except currently, the physician has to travel outside the U.S. to use the therapeutic ultrasound technology.
Status of HIFU Treatment for Prostate Cancer
HIFU as a treatment for prostate cancer is approved in more than 30 countries around the world including Canada, Mexico, Lebanon, Taiwan, Russia, Germany and France. (You can view a full list of authorized treatment sites on the FUSF Foundation’s website).
In the United States, no HIFU device is as of yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) although there have been a number of clinical trials. In late March, Kovner reported that the FDA “accepted the results of a clinical trial involving 100 American patients whose prostate cancer returned following radiation treatment”. Dr. Lazar was a proctor for this particular clinical trial which yielded a 70+% success rate. The FDA decision for approving the HIFU treatment is pending.
Potential Treatment Advantages
HIFU is non-invasive and does not involve radiation. For prostate cancer, “the process uses an ‘acoustic scalpel’ of high-intensity sound waves focused to a tiny point and heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, literally burning away cancerous growth and leaving all other tissues untouched,” described Kovner.
Potential benefits are that it’s a low-risk form, has a short recovery time after the procedure and that there are minimal associated post-treatment complications.
A urologist for three decades, since 2007, Dr. Lazar has performed approximately 100 procedures employing the HIFU technology (i.e. the Sonablate® 500 from SonaCare Medical, LLC). He travels to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to perform the treatment at Hospital San Javier, a Joint Commission-accredited hospital.
Dr. Lazar has described HIFU’s success rate for eradicating prostate cancer as being on par with such common treatments as surgery and radiation, without such side effects as incontinence and impotence.
According to Kovner, prostate cancer expert Dr. Stephen Scionti agrees that “HIFU, under the right conditions, ‘offers the best opportunity for excellent results’ in treating prostate cancer.”