In its first foray into the pharmaceutical arena, Philips is combining its ultrasound bubble system, now used for the diagnosis of heart failure and liver disease, with a drug delivery system for cancer drugs.
"We have found a way to load drugs inside these bubbles while using the contrast agents as well," Steve Klink, communications manager for research, tells DOTmed News.
"We inject the drug-filled microbubbles in the patient's bloodstream and follow the bubbles with ultrasound imaging. When we see the bubbles reach the tumor, we use a higher energy focused ultrasound wave to burst the bubbles and release the drugs into the tumor."
Philips is betting that this localized drug delivery system will reduce the side effects of chemotherapy without compromising its efficacy.
So far, Philips researchers have tested the cancer drug, paciltaxel, in mice. King says while local drug delivery is feasible, Philips is only in the first stage of developing its new chemo technology. He believes it will be five years before clinical studies on human beings can begin.
"Philips is not into cancer medicine and cannot enter this field alone," King says. The company is now attempting to find a pharmaceutical partner to help develop research studies.
"Pre-clinical experiments make us very confident that this system will work," King says. The company is now working with the University of Virginia, where researchers did their preclinical studies.
The microbubbles are tiny gas-filled spheres of biodegradable material no bigger than red blood cells. These are to be injected into the patient's bloodstream and carried to the site of a tumor. The arrival of the microbubbles at the tumor can be monitored with ultrasound imaging.