DURHAM, N.C. -- An intense form of ultrasound that shakes a tumor until its cells start to leak can trigger an alarm that enlists immune defenses against the cancerous invasion, according to a study led by researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering.
The new findings from animal experiments suggest that once activated by the ultrasound, the immune system might even seek and destroy cancer cells, including those that have spread through the bloodstream to lurk in other parts of the body.
This high-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, is in use or testing in China, Europe and the United States to kill tumors by heating them. But Duke researchers now find that HIFU might work even better if it is first delivered in a manner that just shakes the cells. That shaking ruptures tumor cell membranes, causing them to spill their contents. The toxic spill then alerts the immune system to the cancer threat, leading to the production of tumor-fighting white blood cells.
If the effect seen in mice holds true in human patients, such a treatment could be an important advance in many cancer therapies because of its potential to tackle both primary tumors and metastatic cancers that have spread to other organs -- all without the need for surgery, the research team reported in the Journal of Translational Medicine on Aug. 3 (a provisional version appeared online on July 11). The work, done by the engineers in collaboration with cancer immunologists and physicians at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
In most cancers, what actually ends up killing the patient is the spread of the cancer from its original site to other parts of the body, said Pei Zhong, an associate professor in Dukes mechanical engineering and materials science department. If the patient has a tumor in the kidney or liver, several treatment options -- including surgery, radiation or HIFU -- can be used t
Contact: Kendall Morgan