A breakthrough in the treatment of bone tumours in children has been made by doctors at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Paediatric Surgical Innovation at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington, DC.
Founded in 2010, through a US$150 million (Dh551m) gift from the government of Abu Dhabi, the institute’s mission is to make paediatric surgery more precise, less invasive and pain free.
Doctors there were the first in the US to treat osteoid osteoma, a benign but painful bone tumour that commonly occurs in children and young adults, using an experimental method.
The magnetic resonance-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound, or MR-HIFU, was successful on two patients: Alfredo Coreas, 16, and Niyati Shah, 10.
Both took part in a research study aimed at testing the safety and feasibility of the procedure as a non-invasive treatment.
Karun Sharma, director of interventional radiology at the Sheikh Zayed Institute, said his team of researchers was delighted with the results.
“Both children we treated were very active before the onset of their tumour,” he said. “One is a football player and the other a swimmer, but because of the pain from the tumour, they have been unable to enjoy their favourite activities, until now.”
The condition was previously treated with orthopaedic surgery that involved scraping the tumour from the bone or removing the affected part.
Another common treatment is a procedure whereby doctors drill through muscle and soft tissue into bone, an invasive surgery that also exposes the patient and physician to radiation.
This alternative uses ultrasound to heat and destroy the tumour, without using a scalpel or needle, greatly reducing the risk of complications, infections and bone fractures.
At less than an hour to complete, it is also faster than the alternatives. This is the first time the method has been used on children.
The Sheikh Zayed Institute was founded with four major clinical themes to transform paediatric surgical innovation and intervention. These are in immunology, pain and anaesthesia, bioengineering and systems biology.
It has more than 20 affiliated investigators and 70 technical and scientific staff. It is further supported by more than 600 clinicians and clinician scientists with Children’s National and the Children’s Research Institute, the research arm of the Children’s National.
This breakthrough is the latest from the Image-Guided Non-Invasive Therapeutic Energy, or Ignite, programme, a collaboration of the Sheikh Zayed Institute and the division of radiology, oncology, surgery and anaesthetics at Children’s National.
The team responsible for the development was led by Peter Kim, vice president of the Sheikh Zayed Institute.
“This is a perfect example of our mission to make paediatric surgery more precise, less invasive and pain-free,” he said.
“Our leading team of experts is also exploring the use of MR-HIFU as a non-invasive technique of ablating (removing) growth plates and paediatric solid tumours.
“We also have another clinical trial open for children and young adults with refractory soft tissue tumours, and, if successful, it would be the first in the world.”