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Good Vibes; How Docs Are Destroying Cancer Cells With High Intensity Ultrasound 

Acoustic waves focused on individual tumors can wipe out cancer, says study. 

ONTARIO, Calif. — During a new study, researchers from Canada have developed a treatment for cancer by using acoustic waves to target and destroy cancerous tumors.

While doctors have used low-intensity ultrasound as a medical imaging tool since the 1950s, experts at the University of Waterloo are extending models that help capture how high-intensity focused ultrasound can work on a cellular level.

“High intensity focussed ultrasound (HIFU) has emerged as a novel therapeutic modality, for the treatment of various cancers, that is gaining significant traction in clinical oncology,” states the report.

The study was recently published in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology.

Led by Siv Sivaloganathan, an applied mathematician and researcher with the Centre for Math Medicine at the Fields Institute, the study found by running mathematical models in computer simulations that fundamental problems in the technology can be solved without any risk actual patients.

Sivaloganathan, together with his graduate students June Murley, Kevin Jiang, and postdoctoral fellow Maryam Ghasemi, created the mathematical models used by engineers and doctors to put high-intensity focused ultrasound into practice.

Sivaloganathan said his colleagues in other fields are interested in the same problems, “but we are coming at this from different directions.”

“My side of it is to use mathematics and computer simulations to develop a solid model that others can take and use in labs or clinical settings,” said Sivaloganathan in a statement.

“And although the models are not nearly as complex as human organs and tissue, the simulations give a huge head start for clinical trials.”

One of the obstacles that Sivaloganathan is currently working to overcome is that high-intensity focused ultrasound poses risks to healthy tissue in targeting cancers.

When high-intensity focused ultrasound is being used to destroy tumors or cancerous lesions, the hope is that good tissue would not be destroyed. The same applies when focusing the intense acoustic waves on a tumor on the bone where lots of heat energy gets released.

Sivaloganathan and his colleagues are working to understand how the heat dissipates and damages the bone marrow.

Other researchers working with Sivaloganathan include engineers, who are building the physical technology, and medical doctors, notably James Drake, chief surgeon at Hospital for Sick Children, looking at the practical application of high-intensity focused ultrasound in clinical settings.

Sivaloganathan believes high-intensity focused ultrasound will make significant changes in cancer treatments and other medical procedures and treatments. High-intensity focused ultrasound is already finding practical application in the treatment of some prostate cancers.

“It is an area that I think is going to take center stage in clinical medicine,” he said.

“It does not have the negative side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy. There are no side effects other than heat, which we are working on right now. It also has applications as a new way to break up blood clots and even to administer drugs.”

Sivaloganathan’s new research paper on math modeling for high-intensity focused ultrasound, “Dimension estimate of the uniform attractor for a model of high intensity, focussed ultrasound-induced thermotherapy,” was with co-authors Messoud Efendiyev and June Murley.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Praveen Pramod Tewari