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Microbubble-mediated ultrasound therapy: a review of its potential in cancer treatment

Authors Ibsen S, Schutt CE, Esener S

Received 11 December 2012

Accepted for publication 19 January 2013

Published 3 May 2013 Volume 2013:7 Pages 375—388


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Stuart Ibsen,1 Carolyn E Schutt,2 Sadik Esener3

1Moores Cancer Center, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA; 2Department of Bioengineering, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA; 3Department of Nanoengineering, Moores Cancer Center, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

Abstract: The inherently toxic nature of chemotherapy drugs is essential for them to kill cancer cells but is also the source of the detrimental side effects experienced by patients. One strategy to reduce these side effects is to limit the healthy tissue exposure by encapsulating the drugs in a vehicle that demonstrates a very low leak rate in circulation while simultaneously having the potential for rapid release once inside the tumor. Designing a vehicle with these two opposing properties is the major challenge in the field of drug delivery. A triggering event is required to change the vehicle from its stable circulating state to its unstable release state. A unique mechanical actuation type trigger is possible by harnessing the size changes that occur when microbubbles interact with ultrasound. These mechanical actuations can burst liposomes and cell membranes alike allowing for rapid drug release and facilitating delivery into nearby cells. The tight focusing ability of the ultrasound to just a few cubic millimeters allows for precise control over the tissue location where the microbubbles destabilize the vehicles. This allows the ultrasound to highlight the tumor tissue and cause rapid drug release from any carrier present. Different vehicle designs have been demonstrated from carrying drug on just the surface of the microbubble itself to encapsulating the microbubble along with the drug within a liposome. In the future, nanoparticles may extend the circulation half-life of these ultrasound triggerable drug-delivery vehicles by acting as nucleation sites of ultrasound-induced mechanical actuation. In addition to the drug delivery capability, the microbubble size changes can also be used to create imaging contrast agents that could allow the internal chemical environment of a tumor to be studied to help improve the diagnosis and detection of cancer. The ability to attain truly tumor-specific release from circulating drug-delivery vehicles is an exciting future prospect to reduce chemotherapy side effects while increasing drug effectiveness.

Keywords: triggered drug delivery, ultrasound contrast agents, sonoporation

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