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Hollow iron-silica nanoshells for enhanced high intensity focused ultrasound

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High intensity-focused ultrasound (HIFU) is an alterative ablative technique currently being investigated for local treatment of breast cancer and fibroadenomas. Current HIFU therapies require concurrent magnetic resonance imaging monitoring. Biodegradable 500 nm perfluoropentane-filled iron-silica nanoshells have been synthesized as a sensitizing agent for HIFU therapies, which aid both mechanical and thermal ablation of tissues. In low duty cycle high-intensity applications, rapid tissue damage occurs from mechanical rather than thermal effects, which can be monitored closely by ultrasound obviating the need for concurrent magnetic resonance imaging.

Materials and methods

Iron-silica nanoshells were synthesized by a sol-gel method on polystyrene templates and calcined to yield hollow nanoshells. The nanoshells were filled with perfluoropentane and injected directly into excised human breast tumor, and intravenously (IV) into healthy rabbits and Py8119 tumor-bearing athymic nude mice. HIFU was applied at 1.1 MHz and 3.5 MPa at a 2% duty cycle to achieve mechanical ablation.


Ex vivo in excised rabbit livers, the time to visually observable damage with HIFU was 20 s without nanoshells and only 2 s with nanoshells administered IV before sacrifice. Nanoshells administered IV into nude mice with xenograft tumors were activated in vivo by HIFU 24 h after administration. In this xenograft model, applied HIFU resulted in a 13.6 ± 6.1 mm(3) bubble cloud with the IV injected particles and no bubble cloud without particles.


Iron-silica nanoshells can reduce the power and time to perform HIFU ablative therapy and can be monitored by ultrasound during low duty cycle operation.

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