Lately we’ve seen an exciting string of research projects demonstrate how ultrasound can be harnessed to fight cancer, whether that be by helping drugs cross the blood-brain barrier, heating and destroying tissue in prostate cancers, or selectively killing tumor cells while leaving healthy ones unharmed. Adding to this burgeoning potential is a new study that combines ultrasound with microbubbles, which can be blasted apart like a “targeted warhead” to destroy the majority of tumor cells in breast cancer models.
The breakthrough was made by an international research team led by biomedical engineers at Israel’s Tel Aviv University (TAU), where the scientists were experimenting with microbubbles as a way of treating cancer. These tiny bubbles are filled with gas and, when subjected to sound waves at certain frequencies, can behave like balloons that expand and contract.
“We discovered that using lower frequencies than those applied previously, microbubbles can significantly expand, until they explode violently,” says TAU’s Dr Tali Ilovitsh, who led the team. “We realized that this discovery could be used as a platform for cancer treatment and started to inject microbubbles into tumors directly.”
The next round of experiments produced some exciting results. The team found that by directly injecting the microbubbles into tumors in mouse models, and then applying a low frequency ultrasound of 250 kHz to blow them up, they were able to wipe out large numbers of the cancerous cells.