Targeted drug delivery for cancer by gas bubbles


Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in humans.  Treatment of cancer is not always straight forward especially in later stages of cancer.  Chemotherapy is the most common treatment, which involves systemic treatment by drugs that can annihilate cancer cells.  The amount of drug given to the body for chemotherapy is high and can cause many problems to the patients.  The medical and biomedical community is working on targeted drug delivery, which involves delivery of drug to specific sites in the body that has cancer cells, thereby controlling the dose given to annihilate cancer cells.

It was interesting to read that researchers have found a novel technique of destroying cancer cells in the body.  The technique involves injecting exploding gas bubbles into the blood stream.

How does the bubble injection technique treat cancer?
Researchers from Leeds University used microscopic gas bubbles to carry chemotherapy drugs to target the cancer cells. The micro-bubbles having dimensions less than a tenth of the width of a human hair, was specifically targeted towards cancer cells so that they agglomerate around the tumor.

An ultrasound pulse is given so that the gas inside the bubbles vibrates until the bubble bursts.  The bursting of bubbles produces shock wave, which punches small holes in the cancer cells allowing delivery of the drugs to the cells.

Why bubble technique has advantage over conventional chemotherapy?
The micro-bubble technique is expected to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment by targeting cancer directly, thereby cutting down the harmful side effects caused by the toxic drugs when they attack healthy cells elsewhere in the body.

Lead researcher Stephen Evans said that “By targeting the bubbles to the cancerous tissue, it means we can...

deliver far higher concentrations of drug to the tumor than is normally possible in chemotherapy,” quoted Evans as saying.  Dr. Evans also acknowledged that they would like to start trials in animal models within the next three years.

What type of cancers are researchers trying to treat?
The researchers are initially trying out the technique as a treatment for colorectal cancer, but they hope it can be adapted to treat other cancers by changing the chemotherapy drug and the antibody on the outside of the bubble.

Targeted drug delivery is one of the leading area of research and many more concepts are being tied out include inject of drug carry magnetic particle and manipulating it to cancer site by use of magnets.  The challenge still remains of movement or delivery of drug filled species (particles, bubbles) to cancer site. 

I have one basic question for the bubble technique.  You must have seen a doctor emptying a syringe before injecting it into the body.  He wants make sure that bubbles are not inserted into your body along with the shot as bubbles can be fatal.  Why the micro-bubble technique does not have same concerns?  Is it because of the fact that the bubbles are micron in size?  I think animal studies that researchers are planning to conduct would answer these questions as well.


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