Scientists try to ‘target cancer cells’ with microbubbles

A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University has conceived a new scheme that combines ultrasound images with tiny bubbles to “target and crack” cancer cells. Previous studies have focused on helping drugs penetrate the blood-brain barrier, heat and destroy tumor tissue, and selectively kill tumor cells while minimizing harm to healthy cells.

Scientists try to 'target cancer cells' with microbubbles

Microbubble explosion clears about 80% of tumor cells

The international research team, led by the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel, is trying to treat cancer with tiny bubbles. When affected by sound waves at certain frequencies, they can expand and contract like balloons.

Dr Tali Ilovitsh said: “We found that using a lower frequency than before allows the microbubbles to stretch significantly until they trigger a violent explosion. If microbubbles are injected directly into the tumor area, or can be used for cancer treatment.”

Then, in a new round of experiments, the team produced more exciting results. A large number of cancer cells can be removed by injecting microbubbles directly into the tumor sized in the mouse model and then blowing it up with a low-frequency ultrasound of 250 kHz.

Dr. Tali Ilovitsh adds that safe and effective targeted therapy can kill most tumors, but it’s not enough. To prevent the spread of the remaining cancer cells, we need to eliminate all tumor cells.

So we combined immunogene therapy on the basis of microbubbles, which act as a Trojan horse and signal the immune system to attack cancer cells, with impressive results.

The explosion causes holes in the remaining cell membrane to open, allowing immunotherapy genes to enter and cause an immune response, thus achieving a higher killing effect.

Even though the mice had tumors on both sides of their bodies and the researchers treated only one side, the immune system attacked the farside.

This ultrasound-microbubble regimen is also expected to work in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

A study published in April showed that injected microbubbles temporarily broke the blood-brain barrier, allowing the drug to penetrate, and the TAU team clearly had similar expectations.

Details of the study have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Originally published as “Low-frequencyy ultrasound-mediated cytokine transfection sth t cell recruitment at local and distant thorta.