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Bone metastases

Bone is one of the most common sites to which cancer spreads, or metastasizes. Cancer that has spread to bone can cause debilitating pain. The standard treatment of radiation therapy can help some patients; however, up to 30% of people do not respond to it.

Led by Dr. Gregory Czarnota, director of the Odette Cancer Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute, a team completed a pilot study to examine the effectiveness of high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) in alleviating pain caused by bone metastases, or cancer that has spread to bone.

The noninvasive technique was paired with MRI to deliver a beam of ultrasound energy to specific target sites. Thirty days after treatment, five of six patients reported feeling less pain. No treatment-related adverse effects were reported. This study demonstrates that MRI-guided HIFU is a safe and feasible treatment for painful bone metastases and paves the way for larger studies.

Sunnybrook is also working with SickKids in Toronto, Canada on two clinical trials. These trials seek to determine whether MRI-guided HIFU can safely and effectively alleviate pain from bone metastases or benign bone tumours (a condition called osteoid osteoma) in children with cancer. Both trials are recruiting patients. Czarnota is co-principal investigator of the osteoid osteoma trial. For more information, please contact Dr. James Drake or Maria Lamberti-Pasculli at SickKids.