Nanoparticle-Mediated Acoustic Cavitation Enables High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Ablation Without Tissue Heating

Adem Yildirim, Dennis Shi, Shambojit Roy, Nicholas T. Blum, Rajarshi Chattaraj, Jennifer N. Cha, Andrew P. Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


While thermal ablation of various solid tumors has been demonstrated using high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), the therapeutic outcomes of this technique are still unsatisfactory because of common recurrence of thermally ablated cancers and treatment side effects due to the high ultrasound intensity and acoustic pressure requirements. More precise ablation of tumors can be achieved by generating cavitating bubbles in the tissue using shorter pulses with higher acoustic pressures, which induce mechanical damage rather than thermal. However, it has remained as a challenge to safely deliver the acoustic pressures required for mechanical ablation of solid tumors. Here, we report a method to achieve mechanical ablation at lower acoustic pressures by utilizing phospholipid-stabilized hydrophobic mesoporous silica nanoparticles (PL-hMSN). The PL-hMSNs act as seeds for nucleation of cavitation events and thus significantly reduce the peak negative pressures and spatial-average temporal-average HIFU intensities needed to achieve mechanical ablation. Substantial mechanical damage was observed in the red blood cell or tumor spheroid containing tissue mimicking phantoms at PL-hMSN concentrations as low as 10 μg mL-1, after only 5 s of HIFU treatment with peak negative pressures ∼11 MPa and duty cycles ∼0.01%. Even the application of HIFU (peak negative pressure of 16.8 MPa and duty cycle of 0.017%) for 1 min in the presence of PL-hMSN (200 μg mL-1) did not cause any detectable temperature increase in tissue-mimicking phantoms. In addition, the mechanical effects of cavitation promoted by PL-hMSNs were observed up to 0.5 mm from the center of the cavitation events. This method may thus also improve delivery of therapeutics or nanoparticles to tumor environments with limited macromolecular transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36786-36795
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 31 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science


  • cancer therapy
  • cavitation
  • high intensity focused ultrasound
  • mesoporous silica nanoparticles
  • tumor ablation


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