The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that two in five Canadians will get cancer in their lifetime. A Ryerson physics professor, Michael Kolios, and his graduate student, Eno Hysi, are working on a way to fix that by attacking tumours with ultrasound.
“In our research, ultrasound technologies are primarily being used for monitoring the progression of cancer therapies. In this case, conventional ultrasound imaging machines are used to scan patients with locally advanced breast cancer as they undergo their treatments [chemo or radiation therapy],” said Kolios in an email interview.
According to Kolios, the ultrasound waves used to destroy tumours are high intensity and concentrated. However, the ultrasound that you might get for a broken bone or pregnancy are fairly harmless.
“For imaging applications, such as during pregnancies, the intensity of the waves transmitted within tissue is sufficiently low so that it does not cause any damage to [the] mother and the fetus,” said Kolios.
Kolios explained that by focusing the ultrasound beam, he is able to heat the proteins that make up the tumor to the point that the forces holding the proteins together are no longer capable of doing so.
The research has been ongoing for two decades now, having been tested in-vitro, in-vivo and is now in the clinical phase. Kolios and Hysi’s research also explores the effectiveness of ultrasound as an imaging tool to monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatment.
According to Hysi, ultrasound imaging is much cheaper and more readily available than other imaging options like MRI or CT scans, making it a more affordable option for the healthcare system.
“Our findings to date demonstrate the potential of noninvasive ultrasound imaging for monitoring cancer therapies,” said Kolios.
Kolios said he wants to share these techniques with other cancer centres so that can continue testing its effectiveness. “The ultimate hope [is] that ultrasound imaging can be used as a routine [option] for not only monitoring cancer therapies, but also allowing oncologists to switch non-effective treatments to effective ones.”