Ultrasound for cancer treatment

June 16, 2004

Ultrasound scans might be most familiar for getting a peek at a developing fetus, but the technology could also be used to treat cancer. A partnership between UC Davis, Siemens Medical Systems and ImaRx Inc., funded by a National Cancer Institute grant, will study ways to deliver drugs to tumors using focused ultrasound.

Cancer fighting drugs would be put into tiny capsules that are injected into the bloodstream and can be steered to a tumor using ultrasound. Once there, the capsules target the tumor through antibodies or other molecules coating the capsule surface. They can also be burst open with a focused pulse of ultrasound.

"The idea is to locally concentrate the drug," said Katherine Ferrara, professor and chair of biomedical engineering at UC Davis and principal investigator on the grant. Many cancer drugs have toxic side effects. By concentrating the drug capsules in the tumor, the total dose of drug affecting the rest of the body can be reduced, she said.

UC Davis researchers led by Ferrara will carry out preclinical studies on the system. Siemens Medical Systems will design and build the imaging equipment, including developing ways to direct pulses of ultrasound to a three-dimensional volume. ImaRx, Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., makes the capsules for drug delivery.

The grant for $6.8 million over five years is a Biomedical Research Partnership funded by the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health. The partnerships are intended to bring together academics and industry to develop new medical technology.

University of California - Davis

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