John Grisham book turns spotlight on futuristic cancer treatment

Mon Mar 14, 2016 11:14pm EDT
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By Amrutha Penumudi

(Reuters) - A new book by bestselling author John Grisham is giving new impetus to a handful of companies striving to develop what they say could be a trailblazing treatment for cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

"The Tumor" is a fictional account of a 35-year-old man with brain cancer who, a decade into the future, is treated with focused ultrasound - a real-life technology that is currently being researched as a potential cure for more than 50 diseases.

Focused ultrasound uses soundwaves to destroy damaged tissue deep within the body, doing away with the need for incisions or radiation therapy. It has been approved in the United States as a treatment for several conditions, including prostate cancer.

As a treatment for brain and other cancers, it remains a futuristic concept. Research is at an early stage and, with clinical data in short supply, U.S. insurers have so far been reluctant to provide coverage.

But the book, which Grisham has released free of charge, could help developers to make a case for funding needed to take this niche technology into the mainstream, said several company executives and physicians interviewed by Reuters.

"Having a world-famous author talk about it can only help raise awareness," said Mark Carol, chief executive of Charlotte, North Carolina-based SonaCare Medical LLC.

SonaCare has two focused ultrasound devices on the market, one to treat diseased cells in soft tissue and another to ablate prostate tissue.

Men using SonaCare's device as a treatment for prostate cancer had a 9-in-10 chance that an MRI scan would show no sign of a tumor after 12 months, according to a study published in The Lancet Oncology in 2012. (   Continued...

Author John Grisham (R) and Neal Kassell, neurosurgeon and founder of the Focused Ultrasound, are seen in an undated handout picture courtesy of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. A new book by bestselling author Grisham is sparking interest from scientists, patients and investors in a handful of companies developing what they say could be a trailblazing treatment for cancer and Alzheimer's disease.   REUTERS/Stephanie Gross/Focused Ultrasound Foundation/Handout via Reuters     EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE