National Physical Laboratory

Surgery by sound beam

Innovative measurement techniques may speed up availability of new cancer treatment - HIFU.

The Challenge

Sound cancer treatment
Adam Shaw at the Institute of Cancer Research

In the UK, more than 5,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every week. A new treatment, High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), which is undergoing rapid development, is a non-invasive treatment that uses the power of ultrasound to destroy deep-seated malignant tissue with pinpoint accuracy. It reduces the need for treatments that impact the entire body, like chemotherapy, lowering recovery times and patient discomfort. More than 14,000 patients have been treated in EU, with 700 of these in the UK.

However, widespread uptake of HIFU is being delayed due to the lack of accepted standards for characterising the performance and safety of this new application. Without accepted methods, it is much more difficult to demonstrate compliance with the relevant regulatory bodies. Characterisation methods which work reasonably well for other medical ultrasound applications are not able to give accurate enough results with HIFU systems and addressing the problems will involve the development of innovative methods.

The Solution

NPL's Adam Shaw undertook a part-time secondment to the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR), to develop calibration methods suitable for HIFU. Adam was pleased to have the opportunity to apply his knowledge of basic measurement issues, gained in the NMS Acoustics programme, and extend the work to practical trials in clinical and commercial situations.

He worked with researchers at both ICR and at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, in order to gain an understanding of the practical requirements for characterizing clinical systems. The collaborative work is contributing to the development of international standards that will help promote the wider acceptance of HIFU around the world.

"Adam's expertise has been extremely valuable to us in the calibration and use of measurement systems."
Prof Gail ter Haar Head, Therapeutic Ultrasound, Institute for Cancer Research

Find out more about NPL's research in Biotechnology, Ultrasound and Healthcare

Do you have a measurement challenge that you'd like NPL's help with? If so, why not apply for NPL's Technology Innovation Fund ?

Last Updated: 24 Aug 2016
Created: 12 Aug 2010

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