Professor Gail ter Haar
Academic Title: Professor in Physics
Tel: 020 8661 3703
Location: Royal Marsden, Sutton
The therapeutic ultrasound team is undertaking research designed to improve our understanding of the basic science behind the technique of high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for the treatment of cancers of the liver and kidney, and to develop a prototype clinical device to implement our findings. We are also supporting clinical trials of the use of trans-rectal HIFU for the treatment of recurrent prostate cancer.
The basic principle of HIFU is that a high power ultrasound beam is brought to a tight focus at a distance from its source and is used to heat tissue rapidly to temperatures which result in instantaneous cell death. Only cells within the focus are killed - overlying and surrounding tissue is unharmed. If the source is positioned outside the body, this provides a non-invasive treatment for tumours lying deep below the skin. This treatment is rapidly gaining widespread clinical acceptance, and we are at the forefront of its development.
Gail ter Haar’s PhD research was a study of the interaction of ultrasound with tissue, in an effort to further understanding of both the safety of diagnostic ultrasound and of its potential therapeutic applications. She has continued this interest throughout her research career, initially developing an ultrasound hyperthermia system and looking at synergistic effects of ultrasound on heating tissue. The principle of this form of cancer therapy is that the dose of X-rays or drugs can be reduced when tissue is heated by 6-10oC, and still achieve the required therapeutic effect.
Most recently, Gail’s research has been into High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU). In this technique, cells in a selected target volume are rapidly heated to a temperature at which they are killed instantly. This has the potential to treat tumours of the liver or kidney non-invasively, without the need for conventional surgery. The team which Gail leads is working on this technique on several fronts, designing a clinical prototype device, developing methods of measuring and calibrating HIFU treatments, and studying the biology and biophysics involved in the treatments.
Gail is currently chair of both the British and European committees for medical ultrasound safety and scientific secretary of the European Society for Hyperthermic Oncology. She holds an MA(Oxon) and PhD in Physics and has been awarded a DSc(Oxon) in clinical medicine.
In her spare time, Gail enjoys playing Real Tennis, tries her hand at watercolours and Chinese brush painting, is learning French and Mandarin Chinese, and reads a lot.
Focused Ultrasound Surgery
The aim of this study was to characterise the effect of HIFU on the vasculature of target tissue.
Tissue Characterisation for HIFU Treatments
One of the aims of this project is to determine the thermal conductivity of soft tissue as a function of temperature, to serve as an input to our thermal model.