Microwaves in medical therapy: non-invasive treatments for cancer
Worldwide, there are over ten million new incidences of cancer and more than six million deaths from cancer, annually. There are over 600,000 new incidences of liver cancer every year, across the world. Surgical removal of tumours is often impossible due to the presence of multiple tumours, or because the patients are not fit enough for such invasive procedures.
We are closely involved in the development of systems which make an important contribution to the treatment of cancer. The systems are commercially developed by Microsulis Medical Ltd which was set up specifically for that purpose.
Liver tumour treatment
In 1998, we began work with Mr David Lloyd, Consultant Hepatobiliary and Laparoscopic Surgeon at Leicester Royal Infirmary, and Microsulis Medical to develop a new microwave-based treatment for large liver tumours. Microwave Tissue Ablation - marketed as MTA™ - allows surgeons to treat previously inoperable patients. MTA operates at the same frequency as a domestic microwave, and can fully treat a 5 cm diameter liver tumour in just five minutes. MTA is now used in approximately 60 centres around the world.
This work was preceded by research which began in 1994 on a system for the treatment of menorrhgia - a painful gynaecological condition which causes dysfunctional uterine bleeding. The traditional medical solution had been hysterectomy.
Prof Nigel Cronin at the University of Bath and Mr Nick Sharp at the Royal United Hospital in Bath developed a minimally invasive microwave-based treatment - Microwave Endometrial Ablation (MEA). Operating at 9.2 GHz, MEA treated only the endometrium, leaving the rest of the uterus unaffected and intact. MEA treatment takes just three minutes and can be performed in an outpatients setting, generating massive cost savings for the NHS. Over 75,000 successful treatments have now been completed.
There is a growing need for very small microwave devices which can be placed directly through the skin under imaging guidance. In these smaller formats, it is crucial to cool the shaft of the applicator and the microwave feed cables which go through the skin. A new system, again developed in collaboration with Microsulis – Percutaneous (through the skin) Microwave Tissue Ablation (pMTA™) – keeps the whole device at ambient temperature. pMTA has only recently been released, but is already in use at over 30 surgical and radiological centres.