Minimally Invasive Innovative Technology Offers Hope for Patients with Movement Disorders and Brain Tumors

A new and sophisticated twist on the technology that brings us images of a fetus in utero will soon be used by physicians at Miami Neuroscience Institute and Miami Cancer Institute to treat some patients with movement disorders and brain tumors.

High-intensity focused ultrasound(HiFU), available in only a few facilities in the United States, sends morethan 1,000 beams of ultrasound through the skull to a specific location of thebrain. There, sound waves converge and hit and destroy lesions or problemareas. The procedure is non-invasive, meaning there’s no incision and there’sno need for anesthesia. It also avoids radiation and doesn’t damage nearbytissues. The innovative collaboration between brain and cancer specialists offersadditional options for patients who aren’t responding well to other treatments.

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HiFU)

Patients with movement disorders, particularly those who have essential tremor, are seeing great results with HiFu, said neurosurgeon Justin Sporrer, M.D., with Miami Neuroscience Institute. “It’s a game changer,” he said. “The effect is essentially instantaneous once treatment is delivered.”

Essential tremor is a progressiveand debilitating condition that causes shaking of the hands and head. Peoplewith essential tremor have difficulty with daily tasks such as writing or holdinga cup of water without spilling and shaving.

With HiFU, patients are given oneor more “sonications,” or energy blasts to the area, in one sitting. Betweensonications, physicians talk with the patients and ask them to perform tasksthat would normally be difficult. If the patient still has some tremor, anothersonication may be performed. “It’s not uncommon to actually hear patients laughas they are being treated because the effect is so dramatic,” Dr. Sporrer said.

At Miami Cancer Institute, HiFU will be used in clinical trials for patients of all ages who have recurrent brain cancers. “When brain tumors recur after primary treatment, we often have fewer proven treatment options to help patients,” said Matthew Hall, M.D., the radiation oncologist who is a principal investigator of the study. “Our treatments are further limited by the ability of cancer drugs to reach the tumor through the blood-brain barrier.”

HiFU can complement drug therapyby temporarily opening the blood-brain barrier, making it easier formedications to reach the tumors.

“Focused ultrasound can increasethe chances that patients will receive a therapeutic dose of the cancer drugswhile limiting the toxicities they experience,” Dr. Hall said. “This researchis very exciting because it provides a great opportunity to examine newtherapies in patients who often have few options and who really can benefitfrom more effective treatments.”

For details on movement disorders and treatments, click here or call 305-271-6159. For more information on cancer clinical trials, click here.

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