The Speculist: Cooking Cancer... With Bubbles!


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Cooking Cancer... With Bubbles!

An Oxford University team is developing a new cancer fighting technique that is noninvasive, does not use toxic chemicals, or radioactivity. It is called Hifu - High Intensity Focused Ultrasound.

This is the same principle behind burning leaves with a magnifying glass. But here, instead of focusing light, they are focusing ultrasound. When the ultrasound focuses, bubbles are generated within the body. When the bubbles pop, sufficient heat is released to kill surrounding cells - which, hopefully, are cancer cells.

But the existing Hifu technique has two important limitations compared with surgery that are hindering its clinical uptake. First, it is very slow: it takes up to five hours to treat a 10cm tumour, compared with the 45 minutes or so it takes a surgeon to cut the tissue out.

Secondly, clinicians are working in the dark: without invasive surgery, the results can only be assessed after the treatment is over.

Why not use an MRI to see exactly what you're cooking... as you're cooking it? Right now they are monitoring the progress of these treatments only by monitoring the temperature of the tissue and by sound. The have a sensor that actually hears the bubbles pop. Still, that doesn't tell you what tissue the bubble killed.

[Oxford University researcher] Dr Coussios commented: "If we can use cavitation to accelerate the treatment, better localise the treatment - meaning that you will never get pre-focal damage - deliver the treatment at a lower frequency so you can go deeper in the body, and if we can also use these bubbles to monitor the treatment in real time, we have solved all the major limitations of Hifu in one go."


What we need here is some kind of non-invasive localized imaging technology -- nanobots with cameras.

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