Article published in the inaugural release of the Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound

Article on enhanced ultrasound-mediated heating and ablation due to cavitation nucleated by vaporized perfluorocarbon nanoemulsions was featured in the inaugural release of the Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound

Screen shot 2013-05-14 at 8.17.38 PMBackground

The clinical feasibility of using high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for ablation of solid tumors is limited by the high acoustic pressures and long treatment times required. The presence of microbubbles during sonication can increase the absorption of acoustic energy and accelerate heating. However, formation of microbubbles within the tumor tissue remains a challenge. Phase-shift nanoemulsions (PSNE) have been developed as a means for producing microbubbles within tumors. PSNE are emulsions of submicron-sized, lipid-coated, and liquid perfluorocarbon droplets that can be vaporized into microbubbles using short (<1 ms), high-amplitude (>5 MPa) acoustic pulses. In this study, the impact of vaporized phase-shift nanoemulsions on the time and acoustic power required for HIFU-mediated thermal lesion formation was investigated in vitro.


PSNE containing dodecafluoropentane were produced with narrow size distributions and mean diameters below 200 nm using a combination of sonication and extrusion. PSNE was dispersed in albumin-containing polyacrylamide gel phantoms for experimental tests. Albumin denatures and becomes opaque at temperatures above 58°C, enabling visual detection of lesions formed from denatured albumin. PSNE were vaporized using a 30-cycle, 3.2-MHz, at an acoustic power of 6.4 W (free-field intensity of 4,586 W/cm2) pulse from a single-element, focused high-power transducer. The vaporization pulse was immediately followed by a 15-s continuous wave, 3.2-MHz signal to induce ultrasound-mediated heating. Control experiments were conducted using an identical procedure without the vaporization pulse. Lesion formation was detected by acquiring video frames during sonication and post-processing the images for analysis. Broadband emissions from inertial cavitation (IC) were passively detected with a focused, 2-MHz transducer. Temperature measurements were acquired using a needle thermocouple.


Bubbles formed at the HIFU focus via PSNE vaporization enhanced HIFU-mediated heating. Broadband emissions detected during HIFU exposure coincided in time with measured accelerated heating, which suggested that IC played an important role in bubble-enhanced heating. In the presence of bubbles, the acoustic power required for the formation of a 9-mm3 lesion was reduced by 72% and the exposure time required for the onset of albumin denaturation was significantly reduced (by 4 s), provided that the PSNE volume fraction in the polyacrylamide gel was at least 0.008%.


The time or acoustic power required for lesion formation in gel phantoms was dramatically reduced by vaporizing PSNE into bubbles. These results suggest that PSNE may improve the efficiency of HIFU-mediated thermal ablation of solid tumors; thus, further investigation is warranted to determine whether bubble-enhanced HIFU may potentially become a viable option for cancer therapy.