Jason P Sheehan, MD of the University of Virginia explains how this will affect clinicians today, the Focused Ultrasound Shows Potential Against Deadliest Brain Tumor study.
The University of Virginia School of Medicine's revolutionary use of centered ultrasound is showing promise against glioblastoma, the deadliest brain tumor, and may prove useful against other cancers that are difficult to treat.
With a drug that sensitizes them to sound waves, the procedure strikes cancer cells, then blasts them with concentrated ultrasound. The sound waves produce tiny bubbles within the cancer cells which cause them to die.
The work is early, with researchers testing the idea in lab dishes on cell samples. But their findings show that the procedure has significant potential for treating malignant brain tumors and other daunting oncology indications, such as lung cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma, a recent scientific paper by researchers says. They expect the technique would be especially useful in treating cancers that are difficult to reach in sensitive parts of the body.
A new clinical approach to treating patients with malignant brain tumors is provided by sonodynamic therapy with centered ultrasound, UVA Health neurosurgeon Dr. Jason Sheehan said. This method incorporates two approved choices, [drug] 5-ALA and concentrated ultrasound, to have a potent tumor-dependent effect on several forms of glioblastomas.
Aggressive Glioblastoma Treatment
The most common malignant brain tumors in adults are glioblastomas. They are invariably lethal, usually during the diagnosis of 12 to 18 months. The lack of successful therapies for this aggressive cancer means urgently requiring new approaches.
The UVA researchers looked at its effects on both rat and human cell samples to determine the potential of their new based ultrasound technique. They studied the advantages of the sonosensitizing drug, 5-ALA, and based on individual and combined ultrasound, and found the pairing to be much more successful than either alone. The drug decreased the number of viable cancer cells by 5%, whereas it was decreased by 16% by centered ultrasound. The decrease was 47 percent together.
For patients with complicated brain tumors and other neurosurgical pathologies, focused ultrasound has the ability to improve outcomes, Sheehan said. In terms of intracranial indications for oriented ultrasound, we might be at the tip of the iceberg.
Busting Cancer With Bubbles
Busting Cancer With Bubbles The method taken by Sheehan is noteworthy in that it takes a different tack, killing cancer cells without producing heat.
Return to Grounds, Fall 2020. Learn more.
The researchers had to build custom equipment to test the new technique so that they could conduct the centered ultrasound analysis on the cell samples. They did this from scratch at the Charlottesville-based Focused Ultrasound Foundation, a longtime supporter of focused ultrasound research at UVA and elsewhere, using a 3-D printer and software.
The researchers note that in the future, the new platform would advance focused ultrasound research. Using it, scientists can rapidly monitor cell types and sonosensitizing drugs, such as the one used in the study of UVA. In individuals, they suggest, it would also be a help in pre-clinical and clinical research.
Sheehan is initiating a separate clinical trial of glioblastoma in people using a particular oriented ultrasound method, while sonosensitizing research is in its earliest stages. The research will examine the ability of the technology to momentarily open the protective barrier of the brain so that doctors can offer tumor treatments that they usually can not.
The study by Sheehan is part of a large UVA initiative to explore the potential of targeted ultrasound to treat different types of diseases. UVA researchers, for instance, are investigating the potential of the technology to treat breast cancer and epilepsy.