Background: Radiotherapy is a critical component of the multidisciplinary management of cancers of the head and neck. It may comprise the primary curative treatment modality or is used in an adjuvant setting to improve local control and survival by preventing seeding and reseeding of distant metastases from persistent reservoirs of locoregional disease. Although considerable advances have been made recently in the fields of radiotherapy, systemic treatment and surgery for head and neck tumours, locoregional recurrence rates remain high and treatment side effects may have severe impact on patients' quality of life. Magnetic resonance-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound (MRg-HIFU) is a novel technique in the treatment of cancer that has the potential to improve tumour cure rates and decrease treatment-related toxicity. Clinical applications of HIFU are being used increasingly for the treatment of several tumour sites, for example uterine leiomyomas and prostate cancer.
Methods/design: The pilot study presented here is an initial step toward utilizing MRg-HIFU for head and neck cancer treatment. The rationale for novel treatment options in head and neck cancer is reviewed as well as emerging evidence that support the increasing clinical utilization of MRg-HIFU.
Discussion: This pilot study aims to assess safety, toxicity and feasibility of MRg-HIFU treatments to the head and neck region and to evaluate changes caused by MRg-HIFU within the treated tumour regions based on post-treatment MRI.