Purpose: To evaluate the feasibility of magnetic resonance-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound (MR-HIFU) mild hyperthermia in deep tissue targets for enhancing radiation therapy and chemotherapy in the context of recurrent rectal cancer. A preclinical study was performed to evaluate the safety and performance of MR-HIFU mild hyperthermia. A prospective imaging study was performed in volunteers with rectal cancer to evaluate MR thermometry quality near the rectum and accessibility of rectal tumors using MR-HIFU.
Methods and materials: Mild hyperthermia was performed in pig thigh (9 sonications, 6 pigs) using a clinical MR-HIFU system. Targets near the rectal wall and deep thigh were evaluated. Thermal maps obtained in 6 planes every 3.2 seconds were used to control sonications in 18-mm diameter treatment regions at temperatures of 42°C to 42.5°C for 10 to 60 minutes. Volunteer imaging-only studies to assess the quality of MR thermometry (without heating) were approved by the institutional research ethics board. Anatomic and MR thermometry images were acquired in consenting volunteers with rectal cancer. In 3 of 6 study participants, rectal filling with saline was used to reduce motion-related MR thermometry artifacts near the tumor.
Results: In pigs, mean target temperature matched the desired hyperthermia temperature within 0.2°C; temporal standard deviation ≤0.5°C. With optimized control thresholds, no undesired tissue damage was observed. In human volunteers, MR temperature measurements had adequate precision and stability, especially when rectal filling was used to reduce bowel motion.
Conclusions: In pigs, MR-HIFU can safely deliver mild hyperthermia (41°C-43°C) to a targeted volume for 30 minutes. In humans, careful patient selection and preparation will enable adequate targeting for recurrent rectal cancers and sufficient MR temperature mapping stability to control mild hyperthermia. These results enable human trials of MR-HIFU hyperthermia.
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