In a very hopeful development in cancer research, scientists at the University of Michigan have shown that they can force a shrinkage of liver cancer tumors in laboratory mice with the use of ultrasound waves.
Liver cancer is one of the ten top causes of cancer-related death both around the globe and in the U.S. Five-year survival rates in the U.S. in particular are less that 18%, with a high rate of tumor recurrence and metastasis after initial treatment.
The treatment approach is known as “histotripsy.” It is a noninvasive focus of ultrasound waves millimeter precision.
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The non-invasive sound therapy did not cause the complete destruction of the tumor, but it did reduce it in size by between 50% and 75%. Zhen Xu, the leader of the study and a professor of biomedical engineering at U.M., said that in most of the experimental animals there was no evidence of recurrence or metastasis.
The treatment also appears to stimulate the rats’ immune responses, which may contribute to the regression of the portion of the tumor not targeted by the ultrasound.
A human trial is underway with liver cancer patients in the United States and Europe.