Histotripsy shows promise in the treatment of liver cancer

Researchers are evaluating tumor recurrence and metastasis after using a noninvasive ultrasound treatment, called histotripsy, on liver cancer in rats.

Histotripsy is the first non-ionizing, non-thermal ablation technique that uses ultrasound technology to target and destroy cancerous liver tumors and was developed by researchers at The University of Michigan (MI, USA). In this recent paper, the same research group examined the effect of this method on tumor recurrence and metastasis, which is particularly important to consider as this remains high with current treatment options.

“Histotripsy is a promising option that can overcome the limitations of currently available ablation modalities and provide safe and effective noninvasive ablation of liver tumors,” says Tejaswi Worlikar, the study’s first author, and does by mechanically destroying the tissue with millimeters. accuracy.


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In clinical applications, it is often not possible to target all cancerous tumors due to their size, location or stage. For this reason, the researchers assessed the effect of only partially targeting and destroying tumors with their ultrasound technology, leaving part of the tumor tissue intact. They found that it was enough to target 50-75% of the liver tumor volume, because the rats’ immune system was able to destroy the rest. Moreover, in more than 80% of the rats in the study, there were no signs of tumor recurrence or metastasis.

“Our transducer, designed and manufactured in [The University of Michigan], delivers high-amplitude, microsecond ultrasonic pulses – acoustic cavitation – to focus on the tumor specifically to break it up,” says Zhen Xu, who leads the research group. “Traditional ultrasound devices use lower amplitude pulses for imaging,” she adds.

These ultrasound pulses create localized microbubbles in the tumor that rapidly expand and collapse, generating high mechanical stress in the tumor, causing them to rupture and destroy cancer cells.

“We hope the insights from this study will motivate future preclinical and clinical investigations of histotripsy toward the ultimate goal of clinical adoption of histotripsy treatment for patients with liver cancer,” says Worlikar. This relatively new technique is currently being tested in human liver cancer.

It appears that this non-invasive ultrasound technology is a triple threat because it can break down tumors in rats, kill cancer cells and prevent metastasis, all without the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

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