Prostate cancer patients may soon have a new option to treat their disease: laser heat. UCLA researchers have found that focal laser ablation – the precise application of heat via laser to a tumor – is both feasible and safe in men with intermediate risk prostate cancer.
The Phase 1 study found no serious adverse effects or changes in urinary or sexual function six months after the procedure. The technique uses magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to guide the insertion of a laser fiber into cancerous tumors. When heated, the laser destroys the cancerous tissue.
A follow-up study, presented in a poster presentation at the American Urology Association meeting in May, showed the potential to transfer this treatment for the first time into a clinic setting, using a special device (Artemis) that combines both MRI and ultrasound for real-time imaging. The Artemis device arrived at UCLA in 2009. Since then, 2000 image-fusion biopsies have been performed – the most in the U.S. – and this large experience has paved the way for treatment to be done in the same way.
If the laser technique, known as MRI-guided focal laser ablation, proves effective in further studies — especially using the new MRI-ultrasound fusion machine — it could improve treatment options and outcomes for men treated for such cancers, said study senior author Dr. Leonard Marks, a professor of urology and director of the UCLA Active Surveillance Program. Historically, prostate cancer has been treated with surgery and radiation, which can result in serious side effects such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.
“Our feeling was that if you can see prostate cancer using the fusion MRI and can put a needle in the spot to biopsy it, why not stick a laser fiber in the tumor the same way to kill it,” Marks said. “This is akin to a lumpectomy for breast cancer. Instead of removing the whole organ, target just the cancer inside it. What we are doing with prostate cancer now is like using a sledgehammer to kill a flea.”