Ultrasound as Both Tool and Therapy
Right now, cancer patients have to wait months to know if chemotherapy or radiation is helping to treat their tumours. But with Dr. Michael Kolios' work on ultrasound imaging, they soon may have the answer within days.
As the Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Applications of Ultrasound, Dr. Kolios is focused on two areas of research. First, he is interested in how ultrasound backscatter patterns can potentially tell doctors quickly whether a treatment is effective. High-frequency ultrasound backscatter patterns reveal information about cell death and, by analyzing the patterns before and after therapy, doctors could potentially know within days if the tumour is responding to the treatment.
Second, Dr. Kolios wants to know how ultrasound can be applied as a therapy itself. Ultrasound is non-invasive. For diseases ranging from skin warts to internal cancers, current treatment may involve thermal therapies - burning away the offending mass. But the surgeries involved, and/or the therapy used can themselves cause damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Ultrasound therapy, however, is like using a magnifying glass in bright sunlight. The cone-shaped focus of light burns a very specific area without damaging anything nearby. Ultrasound can be focused the same way on diseased areas, without surgery and with little damage to healthy tissue.
Dr. Kolios' research into the various applications of ultrasound has several obvious potential benefits. It could improve the quality of life for people suffering from a variety of diseases. It supports other research, by offering fast feedback on whether trial therapies are effective. And, by reducing the need for surgeries, ultrasound therapy could free up health-care resources for other patient needs.