Focused ultrasound is being used to disrupt tumor defenses.
Ultrasound technology has many applications, most commonly during pregnancy. Other strategies can amplify its power for use against other diseases, including cancer. While high-intensity ultrasound waves can be used to destroy tumors directly, its greatest benefit against cancer may prove to be its ability to support the immune system’s activity.
Checkpoint pathways aren’t the only way a tumor can be protected from immune responses. Other factors can physically prevent immune cells and immunotherapy drugs from even getting to the tumor. The blood-brain barrier can shield tumors in the brain—both those that started there as well as those that have spread there from another tissue. It can also be hard to deliver immunotherapy agents to tumors, no matter their location, because of “leaky” blood vessels that cause a pressure imbalance.
To address this, scientists are utilizing an image-guided approach that uses focused ultrasound, to manipulate microbubbles and disrupt these defenses. A project being supported through the partnership between CRI and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation is now evaluating this strategy for its ability to enhance immune responses against tumors both alone and in combination with other immunotherapies.
Image credit: Cancer Research Institute