Therapy Ultrasound Network for Drug Delivery & Ablation Research (ThUNDDAR)

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Cancer Research
Department Name: Division of Radiotherapy and Imaging


Therapeutic ultrasound (ThUS) has enormous potential as a minimally invasive treatment modality with applications ranging from the treatment of cancer and stroke, to fracture healing and neuromodulation. It is uniquely versatile, offering a non-invasive technique with the ability to thermally ablate tissue, to mechanically fragment tissue or to enhance drug delivery, depending on the way in which the acoustic energy is delivered. However, despite highly promising initial trials and its considerable advantages in terms of cost and patient safety, widespread clinical adoption has been hindered by a combination of factors. These include: poor understanding of the mechanisms of action, lack of effective treatment monitoring, absence of standardised treatment protocols and poor communication between basic scientists, engineers and clinicians. The main focus of the Therapeutic Ultrasound for Drug Delivery and Ablation Research (ThUNDDAR) Network is to address these factors by stimulating translational research that will enable the potential of therapeutic ultrasound to be fully realised. The Network brings together engineers, physicists, mathematicians, chemists, biologists, industry and clinicians as well as patient groups and regulatory bodies to identify and break down existing, and future, barriers to the use of therapeutic ultrasound in the UK and throughout the world.
ThUNDDAR's activities will include the organisation of specialist meetings, seed funding for pilot studies that cross disciplinary and institutional boundaries, and the production of web based information about therapy ultrasound for the benefit of industry, clinical users, health commissioners and patient groups.

Planned Impact

There are many beneficiaries of the work of ThUNNDAR. The potential benefits of therapeutic ultrasound as a minimally-invasive treatment for many types of cancer, neurological disorders, hypertension and cardiovascular disease could have a huge impact on the lives of thousands of people every year. The economic benefits will follow due to a healthier workforce. One of the main objectives of ThUNDDAR is to establish and maintain a leading role for the UK research community in therapeutic ultrasound and to see much shortened timelines to first-in-man trials for the resulting research outputs. Additionally the Network will actively seek ways of increasing the revenue of UK industry in this area by creating a viable lab-to-product pipeline. The Network will engage with MHRA and NICE at the outset to identify any bottlenecks in the regulatory approval pathway for academic-led therapeutic ultrasound projects. Early clinical application of outcomes leading to more efficacious treatments could produce significant cost-savings for the NHS. Through the portfolio of collaborative, interdisciplinary projects, the Network will aim to increase the international profile of the UK research community. By fostering old and new collaborations and generating novel and exciting research ThUNNDAR will strengthen the knowledge base of the UK community in both the applications and the underlying mechanisms involved in therapeutic ultrasound. Senior clinicians will be involved with the Network from the outset to ensure their direct input into defining a UK-wide strategy for research, translation of the outputs and identification of resources for follow-on activities such as clinical trials. The research strategies developed by the Network will also be expected to impact on research investment policies in the UK. ThUNDDAR will encourage the involvement of early career researchers in networking activities who will be thus exposed to a wide community of academic, clinical and industrial contacts. ThUNDDAR will also aim to increase the public awareness of advances with this exciting new therapeutic tool for many life-threatening and debilitating diseases. The Network boasts some of the best science communicators in UK academia today with experience of engaging with the public via routes such as The Royal Society Summer Exhibition, radio and TV, YouTube, school visits etc. ThUNDDAR website will be professionally designed with a section for explaining the science and applications of therapeutic ultrasound in easy to digest language for the general public. The Network Newsletter will also keep the public informed about the latest progress within the community.


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Description Sandpit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A 'sandpit' meeting was organised, the aim of which was to promote therapy ultrasound to a wider audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016