Focused ultrasound is a new non-invasive therapeutic technology that coupled with immunotherapy carries great promise in revolutionizing the way several diseases, including cancer, are treated.
Focused ultrasound technology applies ultrasonic energy into deep tissues in a precise and noninvasive manner, guiding and targeting the energy beam to a specific area in the body through magnetic resonance or ultrasound imaging. The technology is currently approved in the U.S. as a treatment for uterine fibroids (i.e., noncancerous growths in the uterus) and bone metastases but its use is being expanded to other diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, neuropathic pain, breast and prostate cancer, and brain tumors.
The principle resembles that of a magnifying glass to focus sunlight radiation to a single point in a leaf, for example, burning a hole at its surface.
An increasing number of preclinical and clinical studies have shown that focused ultrasound can elicit an immune response. It was demonstrated that this technology stimulates tumor cells to release molecules that alert the immune system (these are known as antigens, in this case tumor antigens) and naturally activate the immune system allowing it to direct its immune arsenal against the tumor. In fact, a growing body of evidence shows focused ultrasound technology elicits powerful immune responses that enhance overall survival and prevents tumor regrowth (literature on this subject can be found here).
Focused ultrasound can also potentiate the effect of chemotherapy and radiation. In the case of chemotherapy this is achieved through the use of a focused ultrasound that heats tumors, rendering them more susceptible to chemotherapy, a process known as sensitization – a more efficient delivery of chemotherapeutic agents to the tumor increasing its local effectiveness. This then reduces the risk of systemic damage by decreasing the necessary dosages for clinical benefit.
Radiotherapy is also enhanced through focused ultrasound, as it allows the delivery of local hyperthermia increasing the amount of oxygen delivered to tumors which in turn sensitizes tumor cells to radiotherapy.
The Focused Ultrasound Foundation is the principal non-governmental funding source fostering the development and research of focused ultrasound worldwide.
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