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  • Acoustic cluster therapy involves injecting microbubbles and liquid droplets
  • Ultrasound used to make bubbles grow larger and stretch the tumor’s walls
  • Increases chance of chemo drugs reaching cancer cells and not healthy ones

Daily Mail (Online) — December 18, 2019

By Connor Boyd, Health Reporter

NHS hospitals are trialling a world-first way of delivering chemotherapy to try and make the grueling cancer treatment more effective. It involves using tiny bubbles to get more drugs inside tumors without damaging healthy cells, a brutal side effect of chemo.

Known as acoustic cluster therapy, the pioneering technique sees these microscopic bubbles injected directly into the site of the cancer. An ultrasound is used to create high-frequency waves that make the bubbles grow larger and stretch the tumor walls. This gives medication a bigger target to aim for, greatly increasing the amount of drugs which reach the cancer cells.

In theory, oncologists say it has the potential to boost the potency of the treatment and lead to fewer side effects. The therapy is given alongside every bout of chemo.

Karen Childs is the first patient on the clinical trial and is receiving treatment at The Royal Marsden in Chelsea following a liver cancer diagnosis in November 2013.

Chemotherapy can be taxing on the body, leading to weakened immune systems, vomiting, trouble breathing, hair loss and irregular heart rhythms. The drugs are delivered intravenously and flow around the entire body looking to attack tumors. But they kill off healthy cells in the process.

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust is testing acoustic cluster therapy on patients at its three hospitals in London and Surrey.

Acoustic cluster therapy was invented by the Norwegian company Phoenix Solutions. It was further developed with proof-of-concept studies by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim.

Karen Childs was the first patient on the clinical trial and is receiving treatment at The Royal Marsden in Chelsea following a liver cancer diagnosis in November 2013. The trial is being run by The Institute of Cancer Research. It will be some time before its success can be assessed and many more trials would be needed before it could be rolled out.

Jeffrey Bamber, professor in physics applied to medicine, who helped develop and evaluate the technology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: ‘It’s a very exciting “door opening” technology which concentrates more of the drug in the tumor. ‘We expect eventually to be able to both treat tumors more effectively and reduce the rate and severity of side effects. ‘In the long term we hope this technology will be of particular benefit in difficult-to-treat tumors, such as those of the pancreas. It may also assist new types of treatments such as immunotherapy.’

Roughly 120,000 people in the UK, a third of all new cancer patients, have chemo each year. Around 650,000 receive the treatment in the US.

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