A consortium of more than a dozen European companies and universities is exploring the use of ultrasound and MR to guide or even unleash therapeutic drugs.
A consortium of more than a dozen European companies and universities is exploring the use of ultrasound and MR to guide or even unleash therapeutic drugs. The drugs will float through the bloodstream inside gas-filled bubbles no bigger than red corpuscles. The gas contents naturally lend themselves to tracking by ultrasound. Alternatively, membranes surrounding the gas might be labeled with magnetic particles to allow surveillance by MR. Highenergy ultrasonic pulses or increased temperatures from radio waves burst the bubbles as they arrive at the tumor, releasing the drugs inside.
Philips is leading the four-year program, dubbed SonoDrugs, which has a budget of nearly €16 million ($20.5 million). Its goal is to develop precisely targeted drug delivery systems for treating cancer or cardiovascular diseases, according to the Dutch company.
Just as MR or ultrasound will track the microbubbles as they enter the disease site, so will these modalities be used to monitor the release of the drugs being carried. Precise targeting of the drugs may increase therapeutic efficiency and minimize side effects, according to Henk van Houten, senior vice president of Philips Research and head of Philips’ healthcare research program. It may also provide a way to tailor therapy to individual patients.
The SonoDrugs consortium consists of Philips, Nanobiotix, and Lipoid AG; university medical centers Erasmus Medical Center (the Netherlands) and Universitäts Klinikum Münster (Germany); and academic institutions University of Cyprus (Cyprus), University of Ghent (Belgium), University of Helsinki (Finland), University of London (U.K.), University of Tours (France), University Victor Segalen Bordeaux (France), University of Technology Eindhoven (the Netherlands), and University of Udine (Italy).