Hypoxic (oxygen-deprived) tumor cells usually resist radiation and chemotherapy, making them a key challenge in treating cancer. Researcher Xin Chen, PhD believes that MR-guided focused ultrasound could reduce this problem, benefiting patients with malignant solid tumors in areas such as the liver, prostate and breast.

Chen, who is an assistant professor in the Department Radiation Oncology at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, has received a $100,000 Research Award from the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation. He is exploring the feasibility of a new method that will detect the hypoxic areas in tumors and use MR-guided focused ultrasound to selectively ablate them prior to regular radiation therapy.

To the method, Chen and his colleagues will conduct preclinical studies using a mouse tumor model and PET/MRI guidance. “Due to the advanced development in the MR-guided FUS system, PET imaging and the image-processing algorithm, there are no technical difficulties to translate this method to clinical practices,” Chen says.

If the approach proves effective, Chen believes it could convince more physicians to use noninvasive focused ultrasound as an adjuvant therapy. “The translation of FUS to tumor treatment has been hampered by its long treatment time,” he notes. Because the new method  involves significantly shortened treatments, Chen believes it could facilitate the use of FUS therapies in a wider range of tumors.

Chen’s co-investigators at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are: Eduardo G. Moros, PhD, Robert J. Griffin, PhD, Peter Corry, PhD, Gal Shafirstein, PhD and Sunil Sharma, PhD.

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