Philips joins effort to test 'focused ultrasound' against metastatic bone cancer

Philips' healthcare arm ($PHG) is allying with researchers in the U.S. and U.K. to broaden the use of focused ultrasound as a treatment for metastatic cancer in bone.

The Dutch consumer and healthcare electronics giant plans to collaborate on the project with the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. The Focused Ultrasound Foundation spurred the project and is also involved; it is based in Charlottesville, VA, and backs research in the field.

No one is discussing financial details of the initiative, but it will be based at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, according to the announcement. Their goal: to establish treatment and training standards, and promote the wider use of focused ultrasound in medical care. Initially, the initiative will begin with a clinical trial later this fall to evaluate focused ultrasound as a treatment for bone metastases in cancer patients. The project follows the launch of a similar initiative at the University of Virginia in 2009 designed to advance the use of the procedure in brain disorders, they note.

Researchers see focused ultrasound as a clean, targeted treatment option that could have a wide variety of applications down the line, and Philips is smart to get involved at this stage of the game. It sounds surprisingly simple on paper. The treatment involves using concentrated, precisely targeted ultrasound energy on tissue to thermally destroy the target.

Other competitors are eyeing the technology as well. GE Healthcare ($GE) owns a majority stake in InSightec, an Israeli company developing a focused ultrasound treatment for patients with essential tremor. InSightec also uses the technology in an FDA-approved treatment for uterine fibroids.

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