Magnetic Resonance Guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (MRgHIFU)

The main body of my research is from a project that I worked on for over five years while I was a graduate student at the University of Utah. For this work, I collaborated as part of an interdisciplinary team on a project funded primarily by a grant from the National Institutes of Health with additional funding from other government and non-profit agencies.

The goal of this work was to investigate the use of High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) as a method for treating breast cancer.Unlike chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, HIFU offers the potential for safer and relatively non-invasive cancer treatments that facilitate quicker patient recovery.

For the uninitiated, the idea behind HIFU is that ultrasound can be used to heat up and kill tumor tissue inside of the human body.  The idea here is to ramp up the intensity of the ultrasound and focus it into a sharp point inside of the body, much like light is focused through a magnifying glass. At the point of focus, the tumor tissue will vibrate, causing the tissue to heat up and eventually die.

My part in the research project was to run computer simulations of treatments using a variety of treatment parameters so that the treatments could be optimized. One of the obstacles that HIFU breast cancer treatments are facing that impede widespread clinical use are long treatment times. For even small tumors, treatments can take several hours. Worse yet, there is strong evidence that the acoustic properties of tissue can change to block ultrasound penetration during treatment, further requiring speedy treatments in a kind of use-it-or-lose-it scenario.

The results of my research found that clinicians can potentially speed up treatments by an order of magnitude by using a tightly focused beam and stacking treatment locations along the axis of the ultrasound transducer. This approach works because it takes advantage of the physical properties of the system, including the idea of heat superposition.

Links to my article abstracts and dissertation abstract can be found below.


Conference Presentations:

  • “HIFU Treatment Time Reduction through Focal Zone Size and Spacing Selection”, International Symposium on Therapeutic Ultrasound, 2011
  • ISTU_2011_Poster
  • “HIFU Dose Delivery Time Reduction: Focal Zone Size and Path Optimization”, Society for Thermal Medicine Annual Meeting, Tucson, Arizona, 2009
  • Presentation_STM
  • “Dose Delivery Time Reduction Through Optimization of Focal Zone Path, Power, and Size”, International Symposium on Therapeutic Ultrasound, 2009
  • ISTU Poster_2011



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