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New non-invasive cancer treatment

Non-invasive technique developed in Israel might open a new area in cancer treatment as high intensity ultrasound replaces the old-fashioned surgical knife.The new treatment is already in use with breast cancer patients and is being administered at advanced medical centers in Europe, Japan and Israel and the FDA advisory panel has recommended it for approval in the U.S.

A patient lying on top of the ExAblate 2000

Treating cancer as well as many benign tumors still usually includes invasive treatment followed by a long period of hospitalization. A new technology, developed by the Israeli company InSightec, is beginning to change that by replacing the surgical scalpel with a high-precision ultrasound beam.

InSightec was established at the beginning of 1999 as a joint venture between Elbit Medical Imaging (EMI) and General Electric Medical Systems (GEMS), one of the largest manufacturers of MRI equipment. The revolutionary technology developed by InSightec combines the powerful detection capabilities of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with high power ultrasound transmitter that can accurately pinpoint the tumor inside the patient's body and bombard it with a high-intensity ultrasonic beam that raises the local tissue temperature to 60 degrees Celsius, resulting in the destruction of the tumor cells.

An illustration of the how the ExAblate 2000 works: an ultrasound transmitter inside the waterbed projects a high power beam into the patients body.

The machine developed by InSightec is called ExAblate 2000 and is composed of an existing General Electric MRI combined with the new ultrasound device. The patient lies on top of a water mattress to improve the ultrasound efficiency and is inserted into the MRI. The physician locates the tumor and using a special type of MR imaging sensitive to changes in tissue temperature, focuses the ultrasonic beam on the tumor. Currently three types of procedures are offered by InSightec: breast cancer treatment, Fibroadenoma (benign breast tumor) and uterine fibroids. Other kinds of treatment are currently in different stages of clinical tests including a brain cancer treatment test that was approved by the FDA in the beginning of 2003. The company hopes to get approval of its existing ExAblate 2000 during 2005 after getting similar approval in Europe, Japan and Israel.

A breast cancer patient before entering the ExAblate 2000

In 2003 InSightec won the prestigious European IST Prize, most distinguished European Prize for innovative products and services in the field of Information Society Technologies. Company officials are now openly discussing the possibility of a Nobel Prize in medicine if and when treatment of brain and other forms of hard to treat cancer will become a reality.

Iddo Genuth

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