On the Agenda - Ultrasound kills rectal tumour

In a nutshell Clinicians at Imperial College have used advanced ultrasound technology to destroy part of a rectal tumour, in a world-first. Radiologists, surgeons and oncologists at Hammersmith Hospital in London performed the procedure with high-intensity-focused ultrasound (HIFU), which uses sound waves to kill cancerous tissues.

New research: Hammersmith Hospital
New research: Hammersmith Hospital

Why is this important?

The news gives patients hope of an alternative to surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The treatment is expected to be faster and more accurate at targeting tumours, while minimising damage to non-cancerous tissue.

What happens next?

Hammersmith Hospital will initially offer HIFU to patients with advanced-stage rectal cancer who have exhausted all other treatment options. Research study leader for HIFU Paul Abel said: 'We need to study a wider group of patients to assess how effective it is.'

PR support and strategy

Imperial College Healthcare comms manager Caroline Weller, who led the team, said: 'This is the first patient and they didn't want to go public in the media. We have focused on the clinical science behind it instead.'

Media coverage

The story was given exclusively to the London Evening Standard, which ran with an article online. A press release was then sent to the wider media. The BBC Health website ran with the headline: 'Rectal cancer tumour destroyed by ultrasound in a first'.

- 38,000 patients suffer from rectal cancer per year in the UK

- 3rd it is the third most common cancer worldwide.

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