Optimising patient specific treatment plans for ultrasound ablative therapies in the abdomen (OptimUS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering


Surgical and ablative technologies are the most effective local therapies for solid malignancies. The significant side effects associated with surgical interventions have led to an ongoing quest for safer, more efficient, and better tolerated alternatives. In recent years, there has been a notable shift away from open surgery towards less invasive procedures such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery, and from there to other methods for in situ tumour destruction, often involving energy based destruction. These include embolisation, radiofrequency, microwave and laser ablation, cryoablation and HIFU. HIFU is a procedure which uses high-amplitude ultrasound to thermally ablate a localised region of tissue. For abdominal applications, the ultrasound is typically generated by a focused transducer located extracorporealy. As the ultrasound propagates through tissue and at high acoustic intensities, absorption of the energy can induce targeted tissue necrosis within a well-defined volume without damaging the overlying tissue.

The aim of OptimUS is to develop a novel mathematical and treatment planning framework for tumours of the abdomen which are to be ablated using HIFU. This new framework will be purpose built for a CE marked commercially available MR-guided & monitored HIFU system, which includes a multi-element transducer. It will make use of high-performance computing capabilities which will deliver optimal treatment plans both accurately and fast. This framework will greatly extend and reinforce the role of HIFU as a completely non-invasive ablative modality, and radically improve the treatment of kidney, pancreas and liver tumours, of uterine fibroids and renal sympathetic denervation (RSD).

World-leading investigators and partners have been assembled to collaborate on this project, from University College London, University of Cambridge, the Institute of Cancer Research UK and Oxford HIFU Unit. All bring unique yet complementary expertise in the fields of mathematics, engineering, physics, oncology and computing to solve a series of complex challenges, which will lead to a significant increase in the quality of life and life expectancy of patients. In addition, the development of HIFU treatment planning methods will lead to more cost-effective cancer treatment protocols, saving the NHS time, resources and money.


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Description This work developed new numerical methods for the fast solution of the nonlinear, high frequency wave propagation problems that model high intensity focussed ultrasound. It was shown that by considering a hierarchy of computational problems at different resolutions and for different domain size that greatly accelerated and accurate computations could be performed. This opens the possibility of tractable computational simulation of high intensity focussed ultrasound treatment, which can inform treatment approaches.
Exploitation Route The outcomes of this project are underpinning new data-driven research into approaches to further accelerate computations of high intensity focussed ultrasound to account to patient differences without the need for expensive, full scale personalised simulations.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare

Title FEniCS Project libaries 
Description The software libraries support the solution of partial differential equations using the finite element method 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2020 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This project advanced the capabilities of the FEniCS Project libraries through (i) complex number support and testing, (ii) improved parallel performance, and especially for explicit time stepping, and (iii) solvers for time-harmonic wave propagation problems. 
URL https://fenicsproject.org/