TAU-led Team Destroys Cancer Cells with Ultrasound

Written on |

Breakthrough method may be applicable to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and more

An international research team, headed by Dr. Tali Ilovitsh from the Biomedical Engineering Department at Tel Aviv University, developed a noninvasive technology platform for gene delivery into cancer cells (breast cancer). The technique combines ultrasound together with tumor-targeted microbubbles. Once the ultrasound is activated, the microbubbles explode like smart and targeted warheads, creating holes in cancer cells’ membranes, and enabling the gene delivery. The two-year research was recently published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Dr. Ilovitsh developed this breakthrough technology during her post doctorate research at the lab of Prof. Katherine Ferrara at Stanford University. The technique utilizes low frequency ultrasound (250 kHz) to detonate microscopic tumor-targeted bubbles. In vivo, cell destruction reached 80% of tumor cells.

Dr. Ilovitsh explains: “Microbubbles are microscopic bubbles filled with gas, with a diameter as small as one tenth of a blood vessel. At certain frequencies and pressures, sound waves cause the microbubbles to act like balloons: they expand and contract periodically. This process increases the transfer of substances from the blood vessels into the surrounding tissue. We discovered that using lower frequencies than those applied previously, microbubbles can significantly expand, until they explode violently. We realized that this discovery could be used as a platform for cancer treatment and started to inject microbubbles into tumors directly.”

Dr. Ilovitsh and the rest of the team used tumor-targeted microbubbles, that were attached to tumor cells’ membranes at the moment of the explosion, and injected them directly into tumors in a mouse model. “About 80% of tumor cells were destroyed in the explosion, which was positive on its own,” says Dr. Ilovitsh. “The targeted treatment, which is safe and cost effective, was able to destroy most of the tumor. However, it is not enough. In order to prevent the remaining cancer cells to spread, we needed to destroy all of the tumor cells. That is why we injected an immunotherapy gene alongside the microbubbles, which acts as a Trojan horse, and signaled the immune system to attack the cancer cell.”

On its own, the gene cannot enter into the cancer cells. However, this gene aimed to enhance the immune system was co-injected together with the microbubbles. Membrane pores were formed in the remaining 20% of the cancer cells that survived the initial explosion, allowing the entry of the gene into the cells. This triggered an immune response that destroyed the cancer cell.

“The majority of cancer cells were destroyed by the explosion, and the remaining cells consumed the immunotherapy gene through the holes that were created in their membranes. The gene caused the cells to produce a substance that triggered the immune system to attack the cancer cell. In fact, our mice had tumors on both sides of their bodies. Despite the fact that we conducted the treatment only on one side, the immune system attacked the distant side as well.”

Potential treatment for brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

Dr. Ilovitsh says that in the future she intends to attempt using this technology as a noninvasive treatment for brain related diseases such as brain tumors and other neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. “The Blood-Brain barrier does not allow for medications to penetrate through, but microbubbles can temporarily open the barrier, enabling the arrival of the treatment to the target area without the need for an invasive surgical intervention.”

Photo: Dr. Tali Ilovitsh

related posts

Recruiting ‘Fighting Cells’ to Destroy Tumors

September 14, 2021

TAU Team Reverses Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

September 10, 2021

Nicotine Testing of Children Curbs Parents’ Smoking

September 5, 2021

The Silent Prophets

August 31, 2021

Want to Fall in Love? Step Outside in The Sun

August 30, 2021

First 3D-bioprinting of entire active tumor

August 18, 2021

New Warning Sign for Breast Cancer

August 6, 2021

COVID-19 Immunity Varies Among Genders and Age Groups

July 25, 2021

New study found differences between women and men in the level of COVID-19 antibodies

July 15, 2021

A world first: Technology that restores the sense of touch in nerves damaged as a result of amputation or injury

July 15, 2021

New nanotech from TAU produces “healthy” electric current from the human body itself

July 9, 2021

Want to Live a Long Life? Consider Investing in Your Marriage.

July 2, 2021

A world first: Targeted delivery of therapeutic RNAs only to cancer cells, with no harm caused to healthy cells

June 30, 2021

Combating Antibiotic Resistance

June 22, 2021

Diamonds in the Rough

June 3, 2021

How Will We Brave the Post-COVID Era?

May 31, 2021

Are We Getting to the Root of Cancer?

May 3, 2021

Optical Technology Generates Immediate Melanoma Diagnosis

April 27, 2021

Gut Healing

April 25, 2021

Could Your Smartphone Be Damaging Your Teeth?

April 4, 2021

The Quest for A Lifesaving Cure

March 16, 2021

A Healthier Alternative to Antibiotics

February 24, 2021

Children with Autism during Lockdown: Serious Implications for Behavior and Development

February 22, 2021

Cancer Breakthrough: Cells’ Uniqueness is Also Weakness

January 29, 2021

TAU Scientists Develop Innovative Therapy to Prevent Deafness

December 28, 2020

Two TAU Professors Win 2020 Nature Mentoring Award

December 28, 2020

Lack of Teacher Support during Pandemic Causes Acute Emotional Harm

December 4, 2020

New Discovery: Development of the Inner Ear in Embryos is Similar to Crystal Formation

November 26, 2020

In First, Aging Stopped in Humans: TAU Co-Study

November 23, 2020

TAU developed genome editing system destroys cancer cells

November 20, 2020

TAU Co-Study: “Green Revolution” Decreased Infant Mortality

November 17, 2020

Study: Women Suffer More from COVID-related Orofacial Pain

November 12, 2020

Global First: Center for Combating Pandemics

October 22, 2020

TAU Researchers Discover Antibody Combo that Fights COVID-19

October 12, 2020

Researchers Identified the Genetic Causes of Inherited Hearing Loss in the Jewish Population of Israel

September 30, 2020

Targeting Melanoma

September 9, 2020

TAU Inaugurates Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research

September 8, 2020

Physical exercise can help improve both physical and mental health

August 31, 2020

New school for Biomedicine and Cancer Research at Tel Aviv University

August 13, 2020

An Experimental Drug for Alzheimer’s May Help Children with Autism

August 5, 2020

TAU Study: Stimulating Immune System Prevents Post-Surgery Metastasis

July 27, 2020

TAU Researcher Fights Epidemics Both Viral and Virtual

July 23, 2020

TAU study: Oxygen therapy improves cognitive function in seniors

July 16, 2020

New nanomedicines for mRNA therapeutics in breast cancer and heart failure

July 6, 2020

3D printed heart used to test life-saving drugs

June 29, 2020

Did climate change cause infections 6,000 years ago?

May 21, 2020

Accurate 3D imaging could significantly improve IVF treatments

May 18, 2020

TAU study finds widespread misinterpretation of gene expression data

December 26, 2019

Fibroblasts involved in healing spur tumor growth in cancer

December 23, 2019

Eating in sync with biological clock could replace diabetes treatment

December 15, 2019
Ontario and Western Canada

3130 Bathurst Street, Suite, 214, Toronto, ON | M6A 2A1 
Phone: 416.787.9930 | Toll Free: 833.32.CFTAU (22328)
Email: toronto@cftau.ca

Ottawa, Quebec and Atlantic Canada

6900 Boulevard Décarie, Suite 3480, Montreal, QC | H3X 2T8
Phone: 514.344.3417
Email: montreal@cftau.ca


© CFTAU  | all rights reserved
Charitable registration: 124035643RR0001

TO TOP