This new ultrasound technique promises to destroy cancer cells selectively and without damaging other tissues
An innovative study brings to the table a new technique capable of selectively killing tumor cells without damaging healthy ones. This is still in its early stages of development.
However, since the ultrasound technique has been known for years, although much more limited and without being selective, a new treatment using this tool could see the light much sooner than we think.
Ultrasound to fight cancer
The battle against cancer is far from over. Fortunately, we have more and more tools, and newer, to work in the fight against the disease. Considering new chemotherapies and brilliant immunotherapy, ultrasound therapy is very discreet and poorly understood. Among other reasons is its moderate effectiveness, at least to date.
Ultrasound therapy uses the mechanical properties of the sound wave to impact and destroy tumor cells. The therapy known as TULSA is commonly used in prostate cancer, but it has its consequences: it also destroys other tissue cells, being somewhat aggressive and not very selective. But, precisely, this is where the important point of the new discovery comes in.
As a joint team from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Hope Beckman Research Institute have presented, their new technique based on low-intensity ultrasound takes advantage of the unique characteristics of cancer cells to fight them without harming healthy ones. .
How does the technique work?
To do this, the researchers explain, the treatment uses low-intensity ultrasound, scaling its frequency to fit perfectly with the tumor cells. Let's remember, without going into detail, that sound is a mechanical wave capable of "hitting" an object according to its wavelength. This must be similar to the size of the object, and the intensity of the "hit" also depends on this property.
Thus, ultrasound uses waves with a high frequency and a very small wavelength, capable of transporting a lot of energy. By adjusting this wavelength to the exact size of the tumor cells, which have very specific characteristics of size and consistency due to their carcinogenic nature, the team managed to destroy them without damaging other surroundings.
What the waves do, they explain, is to destroy the cytoskeleton of these cells and only of these. This causes lysis (rupture) of carcinogenic cells, increasing the effectiveness of other treatments or even allowing remission. Researchers have found that this ultrasound technique is capable of destroying various cell types, including cancer cells of various types, so it could potentially be used in many others.
Still, the authors note, the therapy with other cell types still needs to be tested to see if it works properly and without damaging other tissues. Each cell, despite containing the same genetic material, is very different depending on which tissue it corresponds to. The treatment, therefore, can be adjusted and the best, the researchers indicate, is that it does not need specific or special markers to target the cancer cells, making it easier to use in a wide number of cancers.
Oncotripsia or how to bring new hopes
These ultrasound techniques are based on oncotripsia, a term that refers to the removal of tissues selectively, without harming others who have not been affected. For this discipline, the new ultrasound technique has a series of exceptional advantages for being less invasive compared to other therapies and being very precise.
As the Caltech experts explain well, for the moment, it is just a proof of concept. However, existing experience in this technique, which has already been used in a more primitive version to treat prostate cancer, could help speed up the adoption process and clinical trials.
New therapies and treatments are never overpowering, weapons in a battle that is getting old, against an even older enemy. The important thing, in the end, is not so much the fight but the result, of course. In this sense, oncotripsia offers great and effective progress with few side effects.
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