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Medicine Technology

Ultrasound Technique Provides a New Radiation Free Way To Visualize Tumors 35

FirephoxRising writes "Traditionally ultrasound has seen limited use in cancer treatment due to clarity and resolution issues. But researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have overcome this limitation by combining ultrasound with a contrast agent composed of tiny bubbles that pair with an antibody that many cancer cells produce at higher levels than do normal cells. 'The SFRP2-moleculary targeted contrast agent showed specific visualization of the tumor vasculature,' said Klauber-DeMore. 'In contrast, there was no visualization of normal blood vessels. This suggests that the contrast agent may help distinguish malignant from benign masses found on imaging.'"
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Ultrasound Technique Provides a New Radiation Free Way To Visualize Tumors

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  • by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @04:02PM (#46135445) Homepage
    Unfortunately the ultrasonics cause a Karman vortex street, which has been known to induce panic, particularly in snow hikers.
  • So, if this contrast agent attaches to cancer cells more than normal ones, could it be used to deliver targeted death to the cancer cells?
    • What you're looking for is something called Tumor Specific Proteins. At that point, it's very easy to coat a gold nano particle have it attach to cancerous cells, and then heat them up via surface plasmon resonance (they're tuned to the type of electromagnetic radiation that will reach the tumor: be it laser, xray, or gamma ray. At that point, resonance causes the GNP to heat up the heat induces cell death in the cancerous cells to which they have bonded. The blocker on this line of treatment is government
  • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @04:46PM (#46135643) Journal
    The idea of using microbubbles to enhance ultrasound contrast is at least thirty years old.

    Microbubbles have been used both experimentally and commercially as a contrast-enhancing agent in ultrasound imaging for at least twenty years.

    Coupling affinity probes (like antibodies) to microbubbles in order to increase their specificity has been done for more than a decade. Extensive work has been done in tissue and animal models. (The study in the Slashdot story is just another mouse study.)

    Unlike the study promoted here, there are a number of published reports - as well as clinical trials - involving use of these probe-coupled microbubbles in real human beings to study real people with real diseases. (See for example this 2012 review [].) It's nice that UNC is studying this stuff and it's good to see the number of targets for this technique being increased...but breathless press releases aside, this particular study isn't really cutting-edge.

    • Oh definitely! This still leaves the ultrasound creating bubbles, cooking tissue, emitters being inserted in nasty places... and the resolution is nothing compared to a PET scan for detection.
      • Oh definitely! This still leaves the ultrasound creating bubbles, cooking tissue, emitters being inserted in nasty places... and the resolution is nothing compared to a PET scan for detection.

        Okay, it's pretty obvious that you don't know how the technology works either.

        The sensitivity of PET scanning may be better under some circumstances and for some organs and tissues; it's early days for affinity-tagged microbubble contrast in ultrasound, whereas PET is an older, more mature technology. PET is also quite good for scanning large volumes. On the other hand, its spatial resolution is crap compared to virtually any other imaging modality (save for its poor cousin SPECT)--including run-of-the-mill ultrasound. PET scanning requires exposure to a goodly bit of ionizing radiation; ultrasound is one of the few imaging modalities that does not.

        Under anything like normal conditions (with or without microbubble contrast), ultrasound imaging does not create bubbles or cause significant heating of tissue. The microbubbles discussed here are exogenous and introduced intravenously (for most types of studies); once in the body they tend to break down within a few tens of minutes. The microbubbles are typically tens of microns in size and are carried harmlessly through the circulatory system. Gas from burst bubbles escapes readily through the lungs.

        You use PET scanning to look for distant metastases throughout the body, and a positive PET signal indicates the need for further investigation rather than representing a firm diagnosis by itself. Ultrasound with affinity-tagged microbubbles is used to interrogate a (suspected) primary tumour and the immediately surrounding tissue; it's a different clinical problem entirely.

        As a side bonus, ultrasound is probably hands-down the cheapest imaging modality available to clinicians--which means that instruments are plentiful and fast access is readily available even to patients who don't happen to live near a major hospital's radiology department.

      • There are several ultrasound machine makers that create very good images, and not necessarily the most expensive machines either. One key advantage also is that even with less resolution you get real time images. Ultrasound is very safe, and even then is still regulated with very strict power controls. There is no "cooked tissue".

  • Yes, we've come a long way in cancer treatment, and some ways in cancer detection. Problem is that there are some cancers that start very small, and move faster than the annual physical. The bean counters are standing in the way of the ultrasounds that can in fact see small tumors sooner than CT. The rationale is that (2) it costs a lot to screen false positives and (2) it makes people worry more. I have news for you - after losing two immediate family members way too soon to cancers that were only dis

  • Without a hyphen, the story is much more interesting. It could say:
    Ultrasound Technique Provides a New Radiation
    Free Way To Visualize Tumors

    Very interesting.
  • I am so sick and tired of reading about diagnostic tools for cancer being treated as an advancement.

    For half a century patients have been able to get pretty pictures of their tumors and they end up dying anyway.

    The one thing many of these new "advancements" seem to have is adding on to the bill, but not really treating to the patient.

    Who cares about 3D pictures of tumors, after 50+ years of cancer diagnostic pics address the problem already.

  • ultra sound ablative surgery: ex. [] .

    Essentially you zap with low power to see where you are aiming, then high power to vibrate/boil the tissue you wish to destroy. The beauty of it is compared to most radiotherapy (proton might be better but is relatively rare and expensive) the distribution of normal to target dose is much better.

The person who can smile when something goes wrong has thought of someone to blame it on.