Key Trends Driving Progress in Focal Therapy

prostate biopsy diagram


Several trends are driving progress in the awareness, effectiveness and availability of Focal Therapy to men with localised prostate cancer, leading to more and better treatment choices.

Key Trends

  1. Data on its efficacy and outcomes.

A pivotal study of 1400 men following HIFU treatment over 15 years demonstrated both the efficacy of this form of focal therapy and the quality of life benefits to men who had undergone it. This broke new ground in providing evidence for offering focal therapy to men with localised prostate cancer. 



  1. Increased awareness of non-clinical aspects of prostate cancer treatment, eg sexual, urinary and mental health conditions – are leading more and more men to question radical treatment.

A dedicated group of campaigners and healthcare professionals are actively discussing these issues through social media platforms, on- and off-line support groups, and channel-based initiatives in workplaces, sports and social clubs and annual events.



  1. Continuing advances in diagnostics and imaging in particular are driving more precision and accuracy in biopsying, giving clinicians better understanding as to the location, size and severity of cancerous lesions on the prostate. This is key to determining the suitability of a patient for focal therapy and ultimately its likelihood of success.
  1. New forms of tissue ablation.

Ablation is a word you will be hearing more of as new forms emerge, clinically tested and adopted. It’s a generic or nonspecific term for destroying tissue, and in terms of prostate cancer, ablation means the reliable and precise destruction of cancerous tissue while avoiding structures important for normal sexual and urinary function. Over the years, many types of energy sources have been used to ablate prostate cancer, including heat generated by ultrasound or laser, and cold generated by expansion of gas. This range of energy sources is expanding.



Most established with clinical evidence building over 15 years is: HIFU and Cryotherapy.



New approaches to focal therapy are building evidence bases:




TULSA – Trans Urethral Ultrasound Ablation is performed in a MRI scanner using software that provides thermometry or real-time temperatures within the prostate and surrounding structures. This allows for more precision during the treatment. The temperatures are sent to the ablation device so the power output from the device is continuously adjusted to achieve the desired temperature at the boundary between the prostate and the surrounding normal structures. The temperature is continuously monitored every six seconds with MRI thermometry. It’s key benefit is the real-time monitoring of temperatures within the prostate, although the requirement to achieve this within a MRI scanner limits its availability.



Irreversible Electroporation

Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) provides the technology for a new form of focal therapy known as NanoKnife. While Initial studies were limited but promising, a larger clinical trial is currently being undertaken in the USA. Called the PRESERVE trial, it aims to evaluate the effectiveness of NanoKnife on a wider cohort of patients.



Water Vapour

Water Vapour provides a powerful and effective energy source for treating non-cancerous diseases of the prostate, and is now being developed to treat cancerous tissue as well. 

Cancer ablation via water vapor is fuelled by the energy that is generated when liquid water converts to vapor, or steam.

A key difference between it and other ablative technologies used in clinical practice is the uniformity of its application. Methods using thermal energy stem from a single point that is either hot or cold, and that energy then transfers from cell to cell, progressively getting cooler, or warmer, the further from the source that it gets; this leads to heating or cooling that is uneven and can be challenging to control, according to Mike Hoey, who invented the water vapour technique. He says:


“With water vapor technology, the vapor is given under pressure and moves through the space between the cells over the course of a few seconds. The energy produced is evenly distributed throughout the area and ablates uniformly as the vapor changes back to water.”

Mike joined us recently for our OnFocus podcast – have a listen here.

Two additional ablative approaches that are being looked at for prostate cancer are based on Microwave and laser technologies. Both of these show promise but are in need of more evidence – watch this space.



Do you have questions about when and which source of focal therapy is suitable for localised prostate cancer? Please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

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