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.