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Research overview

Professor Gail ter Haar, Therapeutic Ultrasound Team

The research in our team addresses many aspects of existing and novel applications of ultrasound in cancer therapy. Ultrasound is extremely versatile, allowing, as it does, imaging to provide diagnosis and treatment monitoring, enhancement of radio- and chemo-therapy effects by thermal and/or mechanical means, stimulation of immune responses, and tissue ablation using high temperatures (HIFU) or bubble driven mechanical disruption (histotripsy).

Our interests lie in harnessing this potential for therapeutic benefit, designing appropriate systems, doing pre-clinical research to understand these phenomena and to optimise potential therapies, and then translating them into the clinic.

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.

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