The study team has already developed a treatment that uses low-intensity sound waves in combination with non-toxic agents, called sensitizers, for the site-specific/targeted destruction of tumours. They believe that this method, called sonodynamic therapy, has significant potential in efficiently treating advanced or inoperable bowel cancer and improving survival.

Most recently the team developed a pharmaceutical preparation that carries a sensitizer and increases its accumulation within the tumour mass. The pharmaceutical preparation responds to a number of characteristics of the cancerous environment for maximizing the anticancer activity of sensitizer. They now intend to complete a series of studies to investigate the therapeutic potential of sonodynamic (sound wave) therapy in bowel cancer using this pharmaceutical preparation.

The researchers

The study is being led by Dr Nikolista Nomikou who is a Lecturer in targeted therapeutics in the Department of Surgical Biotechnology at University College London.

Why study sonic therapy and nanotechnology for the treatment of bowel cancer?

Bowel or colorectal cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, taking around 16,000 lives every year (or one every half an hour). Bowel cancer is perversely one of the easiest cancers to cure – when it is caught early and surgery can be highly effective – and one of the most difficult cancers to treat when it is caught late.

The overall survival rate of patients who are not eligible for surgery is still too low. For these patients, chemotherapy is normally used upon diagnosis, in order to slow down the progression of the disease. However, chemotherapy is associated with severe side effects, and importantly, it can lead to the development of more aggressive cancer that soon becomes resistant to even the most potent chemotherapeutic drugs. New, effective therapies are urgently needed for those patients whose bowel cancer is diagnosed later when surgery is not an option for cure.