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Combined treatment with ultrasound and radiation – healing practice

Combined method is said to increase the chances of a cure in cancer

Using ultrasound or radiation as cancer therapy is not a new idea. Both treatments are already in clinical use – but only one of the two. A German research team has now shown that the combined use of these methods leads to better results. Ultrasound treatment weakens the cancerous tissue and makes it more susceptible to subsequent radiation therapy, which means that less radiation is more effective.

Researchers at the Institute for Computer-Assisted Surgery (ICCAS) at the University of Leipzig and the National Center for Radiation Research in Oncology (OncoRay) in Dresden recently reported in the specialist journal “Cells“Of a new and promising cancer therapy in which focused ultrasound and ionizing radiation are used in combination.

Combined procedure is intended to compensate for weaknesses

Both focused ultrasound (FUS) and radiation therapy are already successfully used clinically as individual procedures in cancer therapy. However, both methods have their weaknesses. In radiation therapy, either the dose is often insufficient to completely destroy the tumor or the treatment is associated with serious side effects. Focused ultrasound is a comparatively new procedure that is not yet part of the standard treatment and is being tested primarily in the field of prostate cancer treatment.

Achieve greater success with less radiation

The research group is now testing whether a combined treatment of these two methods can achieve a better overall result. In theory, the vitality of the cancer cells should first be weakened by the focused ultrasound, which makes them more susceptible to the radiation. “After the application of the sound waves, the cells react more sensitively to the radiation, so that the dose of ionizing radiation can be reduced and more tumor cells die,” explains study director Professor Dr. Andreas Melzer.

Reduce side effects and improve effectiveness

The combination of these processes could result in a real win-win situation. The combined therapy “could reduce side effects and improve effectiveness in clinical use,” explains Professor Melzer. Ultrasound treatment hampers the cancer cells’ ability to recover after the radiation. So far, an application in tumors in the brain, for example glioblastoma and prostate cancer, is conceivable.

Healthy organs remain undamaged

First tests of the new therapy, which were carried out on mice at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI) in Leipzig, showed reduced tumor growth after the combined treatment. In addition, there was no recognizable damage to healthy organs. FUS heating is a safe and efficient means of enhancing the effects of radiation therapy and increasing the chances of less invasive cancer therapy, the researchers sum up.

Robotic system should increase target accuracy

“We are also working on a robot system that will guide the FUS precisely to the target point and enable simultaneous ultrasound radiation therapy,” says Melzer. MRI-guided FUS has been used since September 2019 in a pilot study on patients with localized prostate cancer. The diseased tissue in the prostate is strongly heated and removed by ultrasound waves. The minimally invasive procedure takes place via the urethra.

Promising results

The results of the preclinical experiments on the simultaneous treatment of cancer using radiation and focused ultrasound are promising, according to the research team. However, further investigations are necessary in order to check the use in clinical studies. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the project with over six million euros. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.


Diploma-Editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • University of Leipzig: New cancer therapy with ultrasound and radiation (published: December 17, 2020), uni-leipzig.de
  • Shaonan Hu, Xinrui Zhang, Michael Unger, et al.: Focused Ultrasound-Induced Cavitation Sensitizes Cancer Cells to Radiation Therapy and Hyperthermia; in: Cells, 2020, mdpi.com

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.


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