Passive Acoustic Mapping to Monitor Drug Delivery

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


Cancer Research UK estimates that more than one in three people will develop cancer over the course of their lifetime. Current oncological treatments vary widely in their effectiveness and produce unacceptable levels of side effects. If it were possible to target these treatments so that they only affected regions where the cancer is present, this would massively decrease the unbearable side effects of these therapies, making them safer and more effective.

Recent advances made by the BUBBL lab in Oxford have allowed for the development of particles which when combined with ultrasound have been shown to increase cavitation in vivo. Ultrasound-triggered cavitation can be used to achieve many therapeutic outcomes. Most notably, cavitation taking place within a cancer tumour in the presence of drug therapies has been shown to dramatically improve the drug's efficacy. This ultrasound can be focussed to a select and localised region, allowing drug delivery to be enhanced at a specified location without affecting the rest of the body in any way, this makes this a completely non-invasive treatment.

This new therapy has huge potential to not only improve the effectiveness of anticancer agents but also to decrease the negative side effects of these agents, as this local enhancement allows for lower overall concentrations to be used. However, non-invasive therapies require non-invasive monitoring techniques. Current monitoring techniques for these treatments are ineffective and are limited to large and expensive MRI scanners, making the widespread use of these therapies impossible.

Passive Acoustic Mapping is a new imaging method that allows for the detection of the acoustic energy released during cavitation and localisation of where that energy came from. This has the potential to be a much cheaper and effective method for monitoring these novel therapies. My project will aim to make this technique usable in a clinical setting by firstly trying to find a correlation between this energy and the safety of the procedure, and secondly to find a correlation between this energy and the efficacy of the treatment.

This project falls within the EPSRC healthcare technologies research area. Specifically, I will be looking at clinical technologies (excluding imagine) as I will be improving a therapy for the delivery of drug molecules using acoustic waves. I will also be working within medical imaging, as the acoustic emissions from the cavitation nuclei will be used to produce an image which will allow clinicians to monitor these therapies thereby improving their safety and efficacy. These advances will greatly help these ultrasound therapies make their way into the clinic, where they are sorely needed.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509711/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2021
1945819 Studentship EP/N509711/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2021 Cameron Smith
Description Cavitation dynamics of gas vesicles under therapeutic ultrasound excitation 
Organisation California Institute of Technology
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Skills, expertise, and equipment for characterising cavitation agents under therapeutic ultrasound excitation.
Collaborator Contribution Skills, expertise, and equipment for the growth and use of gas vesicles.
Impact Too early to say as the collaboration is still active.
Start Year 2020