Philips develops microbubbles for ultrasound-mediated drug delivery

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Philips Healthcare is developing an ultrasound-based drug delivery technology, designed to increase the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatment for certain types of cancer.

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the University of Muenster in Germany, are working with Philips to refine the technology and the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, are also actively researching ultrasound mediated drug delivery.

Currently, microbubbles are only used as contrast agents. The system proposes the use of drug-loaded microbubbles, no larger than red blood cells, which can be injected into the patient’s bloodstream, tracked via ultrasound imaging, and then ruptured by a focused ultrasound pulse to release the drug when they reach the desired spot.

Since the drugs would only be released at the site of the diseased tissue, the patient’s total body exposure to them could be limited. For certain types of treatment–for example, chemotherapy for breast cancer–this could help to potentially reduce unpleasant side effects, Philips said.