MRI-guided, ultrasound surgery
TORONTO and THUNDER BAY, Ont. –
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Thunder Bay
Regional Health Sciences Centre have launched a unique dual-site centre
that stands to revolutionize surgery through non-invasive treatments for
complex health concerns, including cancers.
“Congratulations to Sunnybrook and to their partners in Thunder Bay on
yet another example of leadership in health care innovations. New
technologies like this will not only put Ontario on the world stage as
an innovator, but also will improve the quality of health services for
patients,” said Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.
Teams of clinicians and scientists at both sites of the centre are
developing new treatments using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)-guided,
focused ultrasound. Patients with complex health concerns would benefit
greatly from surgery, but in many cases traditional operations pose high
risks due to the delicate area where the intervention would occur.
With MRI-guided focused ultrasound therapy, many of these risks can be
overcome by the simple fact that procedures are performed without ever
making a surgical incision and without the use of needles.
In the centre’s first patient trials for this new approach, teams have
chosen to apply the procedure to uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are
non-cancerous tumours that most often affect women in their 40s and
early 50s. While most fibroids are asymptomatic, they can grow and cause
heavy and painful menstruation, bloating, urinary frequency and urgency,
constipation and painful sexual intercourse.
Current treatment options involve medical therapy with drugs, surgery,
and embolization or shrinking the fibroid by blocking its blood flow.
MRI-guided focused ultrasound therapy involves no significant discomfort
and very little recovery time. Early results from these trials have
shown the treatment to be safe and effective with no serious side
MRI-guided focused ultrasound therapy uses heat generated from high
intensity ultrasound waves, focused to the target tissue and guided by
Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, director of imaging at Sunnybrook Research
Institute pioneered the MRI guided focused ultrasound technology that is
at the core of the centre’s work. He is a co-investigator on the fibroid
trials in Toronto being led by Dr. Elizabeth David, an interventional
radiologist at Sunnybrook.
Dr. Laura Curiel leads the research at Thunder Bay Regional Research
Institute with clinical leads Dr. Neety Panu, radiologist at Linda
Buchan Centre, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, and Dr.
Andrew Siren, obstetrician and gynecologist, Thunder Bay Regional Health
“These clinical trials are significant both in future treatment
availability in Canada, and in informing our imminent work in the new
year on non-invasive treatments for cancer patients,” says Dr. Hynynen,
a Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of
The researchers will expand their new therapy team with trials with
clinicians at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre and at Thunder Bay
Regional Health Sciences Centre, for the treatment of patients with bone
metastases, recurrent breast tumours, head and neck tumours, and rectal
tumours. Work will also involve using the technology in new research to
increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and to enhance the effects of
“Partnerships are fundamental to the success of this pivotal study. It
is the first in the combined history of Thunder Bay Regional Health
Sciences Centre, Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute, Sunnybrook
Health Sciences Centre and the Sunnybrook Research Institute. Our dual
sites are shared, offering better access in both Northern Ontario and
Southern Ontario, allowing more patients to receive improved care, much
closer to home,” said Michael Power, CEO of Thunder Bay Regional
Research Institute, Vice President Cancer and Diagnostic Services,
TBRHSC, and Regional Vice President Cancer Care Ontario in the
A number of industry and government partners have come together to make
the dual-site Centre with Thunder Bay and Sunnybrook a reality. Funding
from FedNor, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
- Discovery Grant for HIFU Guidance, the Ontario Ministry of Research
and Innovation – ORF grant and Philips Healthcare have been fundamental
to the success of this leading edge procedure.
The technology being used is the Philips Healthcare Sonalleve and Ariel
MRI-guided HIFU system. The MR-guided, focused ultrasound surgery centre
at the Sunnybrook site is part of the Centre for Research in
Image-Guided Therapeutics, funded by the Canada Foundation for
Posted December 2, 2010