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New Non-invasive Sound Technology To Fight Liver Cancer

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a non-invasive sound technology, which disintegrates the liver tumors in rats and destroys once and for all the cancer cells in the body and activates the immune system to stop the further spread of liver cancer in the body. This discovery is very important as it offers better prospects for the treatment of cancer in humans.

Commenting on the developments, Zhen Xu, professor of biomedical engineering at U-M and corresponding author of the study in cancer, said, "By destroying only 50% to 75% of liver tumor volume, the rats' immune systems were able to clear away the rest, with no evidence of recurrence or metastases in more than 80% animals. Even if we don't target the entire tumor, we can still cause the tumor to regress and also reduce the risk of future metastasis."

As part of the research, scientists also found that the non-invasive sound technology improved the rat's immune responses, mostly leading to shrinking of the non-dangerous portion of the tumor and preventing further spread of the disease.

Called histotripsy, the treatment non-invasively focuses ultrasound waves to mechanically destroy the chosen cancer tissue with millimetre precision. As the new technique found success in mice, this technique is at present being used in a human liver cancer trial in the United States and Europe.

Researchers said, "Histotripsy is a promising option that can overcome the limitations of currently available ablation modalities and provide safe and effective non-invasive liver tumor ablation. We hope that our learnings from this study will motivate future preclinical and clinical histotripsy investigations toward the ultimate goal of clinical adoption of histotripsy treatment for liver cancer patients."

Liver cancer ranks among the top 10 causes of cancer related deaths worldwide and in the U.S. Even with newer treatment options coming up, the prognosis remains poor with five-year survival rates at below 18% in the US. The high prevalence of tumor recurrence and metastasis after initial treatment raises the need for newer treatment options for liver cancer.

Where a typical ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of the body's interior, researchers at University of Michigan have used these waves for treatment. And their technique works without the harmful side effects of current approaches such as radiation and chemotherapy.

The microsecond long pulses from University of Michigan's transducer generate microbubbles within the targeted tissues. These are bubbles, which rapidly expand and collapse. These violent but extremely localized mechanical stresses kill cancer cells and break up the tumor's structure.

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