Principal investigators: Dr. Kullervo Hynynen and Dr. David Goertz
The development of effective local cancer therapies has the potential to significantly alter outcomes and improve survival for patients with solid tumours. In particular, patients with breast tumours would greatly benefit from such a therapy. These patients represent an important cancer demographic due to the high incidence of solid tumours in this tissue and the associated mortality rates. We are developing novel therapeutic ultrasound methods to potentiate established breast cancer therapy. Ultrasound can be focused non-invasively into the body to locally promote anti-tumour effects while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. Combined with systemically injected microbubbles, ultrasound can perturb microvasculature function, enhancing permeability and potentially damaging tumour vessels in a therapeutically relevant manner. These effects can be exploited to enhance the tumour-killing abilities of chemotherapy.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by surgery is used for the treatment of large primary breast tumors and, increasingly, for smaller operable breast cancers. Patients having a complete pathologic response to treatment have better long-term survival outcomes, but many tumors show only a partial response or do not respond at all. This program centers on the exploitation of microbubbles for targeted breast cancer therapy. The overall goal of this program is to develop and investigate novel non-invasive therapeutic ultrasound methods to potentiate chemotherapy in the neoadjuvant treatment of locally advanced breast cancer. Our vision is to translate preclinical results to clinical implementation by controlling the treatment process and integrating ultrasound imaging into an MRI-guided ultrasound therapy environment.
Sub-project 1: We will investigate and develop controlled methods to employ microbubbles to induce anti-vascular effects in orthotopic breast tumour models and couple these with conventional chemotherapy regimens.
Sub-project 2: We will develop a clinical scale MRI-guided treatment platform that can apply the methods developed in Sub-project 1, testing and refining it in large animal models and ultimately implementing it in a phase I clinical feasibility study.
Collectively, this work will leverage the leading-edge research that we have conducted to date, and enable us to make critical advances to position these methods for clinical studies. This approach could have significant impact on the survival of patients with breast tumours through potentiating chemotherapy or radiotherapy.