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Cancer therapies usually depend on cross-sectional imaging for the assessment of treatment response. This study was designed to evaluate the ability of MRI to predict zones of necrosis following the use of high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to treat liver metastases. Patients with liver metastases, who had been scheduled for elective surgical resection of their tumours, were recruited to this non-randomized Phase II study. In each case, a proportion of an index liver tumour target was ablated. The response to HIFU was assessed after 12 days using contrast-enhanced MRI and compared directly with histological analysis at the time of surgery. Eight patients were treated, of whom six were subsequently assessed with both MRI and histology. There were no major complications. MRI predicted complete ablation in three cases. In each case, histological analysis confirmed complete ablation. In one case, the region of ablation observed on MRI appeared smaller than predicted at the time of HIFU, but histology revealed complete ablation of the target region. The predominant characteristic of HIFU-ablated tissue was coagulative necrosis but heat fixation was evident in some areas. Heat-fixed cells appeared normal under haematoxylin and eosin staining, indicating that this is unreliable as an indicator of HIFU-induced cell death. This study demonstrates that HIFU is capable of achieving selective ablation of pre-defined regions of liver tumour targets, and that MRI evidence of complete ablation of the target region can be taken to infer histological success.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Radiol

Publication Date





564 - 571


Aged, Humans, Liver Neoplasms, Middle Aged, Radiography, Safety, Treatment Outcome, Ultrasonic Therapy