A Brampton, Ont., teenager has become the first pediatric patient in North America to have a benign tumour near his hip removed without radiation or surgery.
Doctors at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto used high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) waves, guided by an MRI machine, to burn off the tumour of 16-year-old Jack Campanile two weeks ago.
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The MRI pinpoints the tumour, which is then hit with heat-inducing ultrasound beams.
The operation came after a year of crippling pain for him.
"The only way I can describe it was if somebody was to kind of hit my leg with a sledgehammer over and over again," he told CBC News.
Still, Campanile didn't like the idea of surgeons cutting into his bone to scrape away the tumour, so when the hospital offered him a chance to be the first person in North America to undergo a new non-invasive procedure, he jumped at the chance.
"I was very interested how it would work and how it wouldn't have an incision on the surface of the skin," he said.
The procedure took half a day.
Campanile is now tumour-free.
"I can do jogging and hiking and stuff like that and it feels great because I don't have to do deal with the pain anymore," he said. The avid hockey player says once he gets the all clear from doctors in four weeks, he plans to lace up his skates.
Dr. James Drake, head of neurosurgery at the hospital, has been leading the research on HIFU.
The technology has been under development for three years and, in this case, spared Campanile the pain and risk of infection that comes with the standard treatment, which involves needles and lasers.
"This is completely radiation free," Drake said. "We can use it as many times as we want … It's harmless to the surrounding tissues as long as it's correctly controlled."
The treatment has also been used to treat uterine fibroids and certain bone tumours. Drake said researchers are also looking at possible uses in pediatric medicine.
"We're very interested in treating other types of tumours, soft-tissue tumours that occur in the abdomen, and a number of applications in the brain where we think it might be useful, for example pediatric stroke and epilepsy," Drake said.
"We think it's got a great future," Drake said. "Our expectation is this may become the standard treatment for a number of pediatric disorders."
The hospital said it will continue its trials on nine other patients and expects to be able to target other tumours in about a year.