Researchers use ultrasound to make tumors disappear

Liver cancer is still considered a relatively rare form of cancer in Germany. However, the number of cases is increasing. Particularly insidious: most diseases are only recognized at a late stage. Then there is hardly any chance of recovery with the current treatment methods. An experiment at the University of Michigan may now offer some hope. There, the researchers tried to destroy liver tumors using non-invasive ultrasound waves. However, the technology wasn’t the first to be tested on humans. Instead, experiments were performed on rats. This form of treatment is also called histotripsy and is still relatively new. Simply put, the waves emitted by a transducer create tiny bubbles in the damaging tissue. These cause the tissue to first swell, then collapse and eventually disappear.

Some tumor cells can be successfully destroyed

Side effects such as those associated with chemotherapy or classical radiation have not been observed to date. The fight against cancer was also quite successful in the rats. In this way, the researchers managed to destroy up to 75 percent of the tumor. The animals’ immune systems were then able to fight off the remaining dangerous cells on their own. This gives hope that a breakthrough in the fight against cancer could have been achieved. However, the approach has not yet worked 100%. In almost twenty percent of the animals metastases or cancer recurred later. The extent to which this value can increase with longer observation periods remains to be investigated. Nevertheless, the researchers are optimistic that their approach will at least contain the cancer and reduce the risk of metastasis. This would be a significant improvement over the current situation.

First studies with test subjects have started

At the same time, however, we must warn against too much euphoria. Because the use of technology in the fight against cancer is still in its infancy. In any case, the successful test in rats has now ensured that the first tests in human patients have also been tackled. Similar studies are currently underway in Europe and the United States. If the promising results here are confirmed, this would be a further step towards standard use of the new treatment method. However, it is not yet possible to give a serious deadline for full approval. Meanwhile, researchers are already working on other potential uses for histotripsy. Initial studies have also yielded successful approaches in the treatment of brain diseases and in the context of immunotherapy. Here too, the subject will now be pursued more intensively.

Via: University of Michigan