Local temperature elevation may be used for tumor ablation, gene expression, drug activation, and gene and/or drug delivery. High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is the only clinically viable technology that can be used to achieve a local temperature increase deep inside the human body in a noninvasive way. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guidance of the procedure allows in situ target definition and identification of nearby healthy tissue to be spared. In addition, MRI can be used to provide continuous temperature mapping during HIFU for spatial and temporal control of the heating procedure and prediction of the final lesion based on the received thermal dose. The primary purpose of the development of MRI-guided HIFU was to achieve safe noninvasive tissue ablation. The technique has been tested extensively in preclinical studies and is now accepted in the clinic for ablation of uterine fibroids. MRI-guided HIFU for ablation shows conceptual similarities with radiation therapy. However, thermal damage generally shows threshold-like behavior, with necrosis above the critical thermal dose and full recovery below. MRI-guided HIFU is being clinically evaluated in the cancer field. The technology also shows great promise for a variety of advanced therapeutic methods, such as gene therapy. MR-guided HIFU, together with the use of a temperature-sensitive promoter, provides local, physical, and spatio-temporal control of transgene expression. Specially designed contrast agents, together with the combined use of MRI and ultrasound, may be used for local gene and drug delivery.