Therapeutic Ultrasound

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Ultrasound may have therapeutic effects

Advantages

Non-Invasive

Ability to thermally ablate tissue, to mechanically fragment tissue or to enhance drug delivery

Potential technique

Enormous potential as a minimally invasive treatment modality

Applications

Applications ranging from the treatment of cancer and stroke, to fracture healing and neuromodulation.

Current Issues

Despite highly promising initial trials and its considerable advantages in terms of cost and patient safety, widespread clinical adoption has been hindered by a combination of factors. These include: poor understanding of the mechanisms of action, lack of effective treatment monitoring, absence of standardised treatment protocols and poor communication between basic scientists, engineers and clinicians.

ThUNDDAR

The Therapeutic Ultrasound for Drug Delivery and Ablation Research (ThUNDDAR) Network addresses these factors by stimulating translational research that will enable the potential of therapeutic ultrasound to be fully realised.

The Network brings together engineers, physicists, mathematicians, chemists, biologists, industry and clinicians as well as patient groups and regulatory bodies to identify and break down existing, and future, barriers to the use of therapeutic ultrasound in the UK and throughout the world.

ThUNDDAR has academic, clinical and industrial objectives: to generate new and further enhance existing collaborations between UK research groups in therapeutic ultrasound; overcome the obstacles in the way of clinical translation of ultrasound mediated therapy; and form new strategic partnerships with UK SMEs.

Barriers to Adoption

Most people will be familiar with the ultrasound scans that often accompany the first announcement of a pregnancy to a wider family group. These are performed with the expectation that they are safe, the ultrasound exposure having no untoward consequences for the unborn baby. However, if the amount of energy used is increased, or delivered in a different fashion, biological effects can be induced, and at high enough levels, cells may be killed. These biological effects can now be harnessed for therapeutic benefit. Therapeutic ultrasound (ThUS) has enormous potential as a minimally invasive treatment modality, with current applications ranging from the treatment of cancer and stroke to fracture healing and neuromodulation. It is uniquely versatile, offering the ability to thermally ablate tissue, to mechanically fragment it or to enhance drug delivery, depending on the way in which the acoustic energy is delivered. However, despite highly promising initial trials and its considerable advantages in terms of cost and patient safety, widespread clinical adoption is slow. The UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has funded a network, the Therapeutic Ultrasound Network for Drug Delivery and Ablation Research (ThUNDDAR), the main focus of which is to inform the clinical community of the existence of therapy ultrasound techniques and to stimulate the translational research that will enable their potential to be fully realised.

— Gail ter Haar, Speaking to SciTech Europa (2017)