Transcostal High Intensity Focused Ultrasound for the Treatment of Cancer

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


The efficacy of high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for the non-invasive treatment of cancer has been clearly demonstrated for a range of different cancers including those of the liver, prostate and breast. As a non-invasive focal therapy, HIFU offers considerable advantages over other techniques such as chemotherapy and surgery, in terms of invasiveness and risk of harmful side-effects. Despite its advantages, however, there are a number of significant challenges currently hindering its widespread clinical application, specifically: the need to transmit energy through the rib cage and the associated risk of skin burns and damage to the rib surface, the effects of organ motion on treatment accuracy, a poor understanding of cavitation processes in vivo and, finally, the lack of effective techniques for real-time image guidance and treatment monitoring. The overall objective of the research programme described in this document is to develop practical solutions for these issues. Successful completion of this proposal will result in a prototype clinical device for the safe and effective HIFU treatment of tumours of the liver, kidney and pancreas that has undergone preclinical testing and conforms to the necessary safety standards for patient use.


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Bral M (2019) A Back-to-Base Experience of Human Normothermic Ex Situ Liver Perfusion: Does the Chill Kill? in Liver transplantation : official publication of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the International Liver Transplantation Society

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Collin JR (2011) Quantitative observations of cavitation activity in a viscoelastic medium. in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

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Hockham N (2010) A real-time controller for sustaining thermally relevant acoustic cavitation during ultrasound therapy. in IEEE transactions on ultrasonics, ferroelectrics, and frequency control

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Jackson E (2013) The origins of nonlinear enhancement in ex vivo tissue during high intensity focused ultrasound ablation in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

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Labouret S (2010) Shear-rate dependence of viscosity for improved modeling of cavitation dynamics in visco-elastic media. in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Description 1. Cavitation-enhanced heating offers significant advantages over non-cavitation-enhanced heating for non-invasive tumour ablation
2. The cavitation threshold of tissues at 4 different frequencies has been characterized for the very first time, both in non-perfused and perfused tissue
2. A novel technique, developed as part of my Challenging Engineering award (EP/F011547/1), could provide a novel low-cost method for monitoring ablation in real time
3. Real-time control of cavitation also provides an opportunity to minimize energy delivery to the patient for ablation of a particular tumour volume
Exploitation Route Arising patents have been licensed to Oxford spin-out OxSonics for integration into next-generation ultrasound surgery devices.
Sectors Healthcare

Description Intellectual property developed as part of this award contributed to the creation of University spin-out OxSonics in 2014, developing novel devices for ultrasound-mediated drug delivery and non-invasive surgery. The information gleaned over the course of this award about the challenges of transcostal ultrasound delivery has been implemented in the development of SonoTran, a novel platform for ultrasound-mediated drug delivery to the liver.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Title Ultrasound systems 
Description A sensing system for sensing the condition of an object comprises a transducer arranged to generate pressure waves directed at the object and detection means, such as a pressure wave detector, arranged to detect cavitation or other processes in the object. The system further comprises processing means arranged to receive detection signals from the detection means, to process the detection signals to measure a signal parameter of the detection signals that varies with a parameter of the object, and may generate a sensor output that varies in response to changes in the signal parameter. 
IP Reference WO2011036485 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2009
Licensed Yes
Impact Being incorporated within a medical product currently being developed by the licensee.