Caption: During thermal treatment (left), MRI-generated images allow technicians to monitor temperatures in real time (right) to ensure safety.
Although medical advances are helping stage-4 cancer patients survive longer, bone metastases cause serious and difficult-to-treat pain. In January 2014, TMU became the first Asian medical institution to employ MRI-guided conformal thermal therapy.
Since then, TMU hospitals have successfully treated 120 cancer patients with bone metastases, the highest number of patients treated worldwide. Their treatment results were published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, ranked first in the orthopedics field.
The research was led by Prof. Jeng-Fong Chiou, TMU Taipei Cancer Center executive deputy superintendent and TMU Hospital radiology director.
The team analyzed bone metastases in 63 breast, prostate and colorectal cancer patients, comparing responses to traditional radiation therapy with those of the new technology. They found that the rate of treatment response to MRI-guided conformal thermal therapy during the first week equalled the response rate of one to three months of traditional treatment, thus demonstrating superior pain relief in the thermal therapy group.
In the 21 patients who received MRI-guided conformal thermal therapy, 71% showed alleviation of pain or reduced painkiller dosages after one week, compared with the 26% response in radiation therapy patients during the same period. After one month of follow-up, thermal treated patients showed 81% effectiveness in pain alleviation, compared with 67% in radiation therapy patients.
Prof. Jeng-Fong Chiou says cancer patients who receive traditional radiation treatment have a close to 30% chance of relapse in the same location, while patients who undergo thermal treatment have an extremely low chance of relapse, typically less than 5%. After TMU Hospital introduced MRI-guided conformal thermal therapy, it also received national quality certification. The team will continue their research and expand thermal therapy for new indications such as to osteoarthritis and neuropathy.
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