USC: Making history in the treatment of prostate cancer

Did you know Keck Medicine of USC has made history in the treatment of prostate cancer? Find out more here.

Keck Medicine of USC made history when it became the first academic medical center in the nation to utilize a newly FDA-approved, game-changing technology to treat prostate cancer. Inderbir S. Gill, M.D., M.Ch., founding executive director of the USC Institute of Urology, helped pioneer the high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) technology that promises significant treatment benefits to prostate cancer patients like Brett Lindsay — one of the first patients to undergo an HIFU procedure.

“This technology allows us to precisely target and destroy prostate cancer without surgery,” Gill explains. “It’s a minimally invasive, highly effective, outpatient procedure that doesn’t rely on radiation, and there’s no blood loss.”

The quick recovery time and limited side effects were a major draw for Lindsay, who underwent the procedure in November. "I was excited about the new procedure, because it was more or less noninvasive. The recovery time was a lot quicker,” he says.

Not only was Lindsay able to travel for business a week later, but he also doesn’t have to worry about a significant impact on his quality of life. The technology allows physicians to introduce the HIFU probe into the rectum while the patient is under general anesthetic. An ultrasound beam is aimed at the prostate, specifically targeting the cancer lesions. 

Traditional prostate cancer treatments include radiation or removing the entire prostate, which can compromise nerves responsible for erections and urinary continence. HIFU has no impact on the tissue or the nerves surrounding the prostate. Gill explains that only the most aggressive tumors need to be targeted. “HIFU allows you to treat in a targeted manner and do active surveillance of the gland, bringing the cancer from high to low-risk,” he says.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime — making it the second-most common type of cancer in American men, behind skin cancer. But only about 1 in 38 men will die of prostate cancer. Revolutionizing novel treatments that will allow prostate cancer survivors to lead active, normal lifestyles is paramount.  

Already, HIFU is becoming a viable option for prostate cancer patients who may have had limited treatment options due to pre-existing conditions. Thomas Lechuga was another one of the first patients to undergo the HIFU procedure following FDA approval. He had already undergone a triple-bypass surgery, and undergoing another surgery to treat prostate cancer had significant risks.

Gill says he is looking forward to gathering more data about HIFU technology that will further impact the future of prostate cancer. “We will be able to figure out what molecular and genetic markers predict HIFU success and HIFU failures, and which patients are the best candidates,” he explains.

As the first academic medical center to use this technology, Keck Medicine of USC plans to become a leader, not just in HIFU treatment of prostate cancer, but also in educating and teaching urologists from across the country. The USC Institute of Urology team plans to hold courses, hands-on symposiums and actual surgical demonstrations to be able to diffuse this technology in the community.

As a strong proponent of the technology and the future of his field, Gill says: “HIFU technology is reproducible; it is precise, it is automated, it is robotic, so what’s not to love? It has all the makings of precision medicine.”

--Tribune Content Solutions for USC Keck

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