Scientists Discover New Way to Destroy Cancer Tumours -- Sound Waves

A recent research into high-intensity focused ultrasound therapy (HIFU) technology has shown that it effective in the treatment of cancer. The research was conducted by a multi-institutional research team from China. The team developed a semi-enclosed, spherical cavity transducer, which produces focused, standing wave-fields, a subwavelength-scale focal region, and extremely high ultrasound intensity.

From the results, it appears that the spherical cavity transducer generates tighter focal regions, as well as better pressure amplitude compared to the traditional spherical transducer. Researchers say the level of intensity the new transducer design is capable of generating may cause major advances in HIFU therapy.

For those unfamiliar with HIFU, it is a targeted, non-invasive treatment, which uses sound waves to get rid of cancer cells. It converts electronic signals to sound waves using an ultrasonic transducer. Afterward, it concentrates this ultrasound into a small focal region, raising the temperature to above 65 degrees Celsius that kills nearby cancer cells in the process. The technique can be compared to focusing sunlight through a length to help eliminate these cancerous cells.

HIFU is used as an alternative to standard cancer treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy. Several studies and clinical trials have proved that high-intensity focused ultrasound therapy is very useful in the treatment of cancer.

Researchers at the University College Hospital in London observed 625 men with prostate cancer and discovered that 93 percent of those who went with HIFU alone stayed cancer-free at five years after the treatment, without requiring radiotherapy or surgery. The data also showed that only about two percent of patients who had HIFU treatment suffered long-term urinary incontinence, whereas the numbers were up to 20 percent for patients who had surgery. In addition, only about 15 percent of the HIFU group developed erectile dysfunction as opposed to the 30 – 60 percent of those who had surgery.

“The results of this study are impressive and have the potential to transform prostate cancer treatment for many men in the future. It is extremely exciting technology and these results show that in men diagnosed early by prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood testing, this targeted therapy could be as effective as surgery to remove the whole prostate gland or radiotherapy and cause far fewer side effects,” said study co-author Tim Dudderidge.

The group of researchers was able to present their findings at the yearly meeting of the European Association of Urology in Munich, Germany.

Researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada also developed a new technique which uses focused sound waves to activate very tiny particles known as nanodroplets. The researchers claimed that the technique was as accurate as using needles in biopsy.

“With a little bit of ultrasound energy, nanodroplets phase-change into microbubbles. That’s important because ultrasound can really oscillate these microbubbles. The microbubbles absorb of the ultrasound energy and then act like boxing gloves to punch the tumor cells and knock little vesicles off. That led us to detect some genes that were indicative of the aggressiveness of a tumour. That’s potentially very powerful. You can get a genetic characterization of the tumour, but do it relatively non-invasively,” said engineering professor Roger Zemp.


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