Physically and emotionally jarring, a cancer diagnosis has become all too common for many Americans and their loved ones. Prostate cancer alone impacts one in seven men in the United States. Traditionally, men with prostate cancer who require surgical treatment undergo a radical prostatectomy, which can result in life-altering side effects, such as loss of bladder control and erectile dysfunction.
Dr. Michael O. Koch, chairman of the department of urology at Indiana University Health, spent years developing a new ultrasound surgical technique to revolutionize the treatment of prostate cancer and provide positive outcomes for men with prostate cancer.
High intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, is used to burn and destroy affected tissue, with the goal of preserving healthy prostate tissue. Much like a magnifying glass can pinpoint sunlight to burn through an object, HIFU uses focused sound waves to target cancerous areas of the prostate. Unlike traditional treatments, HIFU is an outpatient procedure and allows patients to avoid unpleasant side effects.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, HIFU is poised to be a breakthrough in cancer care; currently, there is no alternative to accurately and safely destroy solely the cancerous part of the prostate. Dr. Koch performs the outpatient procedure at the IU Health Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis.
On May 11, 2016, Dr. Koch performed the first partial prostate gland ablation in Indiana using HIFU. Drew Davis, 73, traveled to Indiana from Florida for the procedure and elected HIFU to avoid the side effects of traditional treatments. The procedure lasted just four hours, and after a follow-up appointment two days later, Davis was on his way home to Florida.
“After my cancer was diagnosed by my local Florida physician, he explained that Dr. Koch, at IU Health, was the leader in a study of a new technology and its use with prostate cancer,” said Davis.
HIFU for prostate cancer has been performed in just a few states since it received FDA approval, with IU Health being the first in the Midwest. The cutting-edge cancer treatment technique was developed in part by IU Health surgeons, who were very involved in its original development and clinical trials. Dr. Koch served as the principal investigator for the clinical trials behind HIFU’s FDA approval, and wrote the first medical paper on HIFU. IU Health, in conjunction with the IU School of Medicine, is one of only three training centers in the country educating doctors about HIFU.
While a prostate cancer diagnosis can be daunting, HIFU shatters the expectation of long hospital stays and lowered quality of life during treatment. The non-invasive, outpatient procedure takes only a few hours, and most men can be back to their regular routine immediately.
Of the nearly 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer detected each year, Dr. Koch estimates HIFU will be a viable option for up to 20 percent of those whose cancer is limited to part of the prostate.
-- By Danielle Sirilla
1 “Key statistics for prostate cancer” American Cancer Society www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-key-statistics (Oct. 26, 2016)