MR imaging is used to guide the TULSA-PRO (TM) (©Profound Medical) robotic ultrasound positioning device for prostate cancer treatment.

SONO-RAY is a collaborative research project of the OncoRay Center (Dresden) and the Innovation Center for Computer-Assisted Surgery (ICCAS), University of Leipzig. The project utilizes the vast expertise in the field of radiation research in Dresden and the extensive therapeutic ultrasound expertise in Leipzig. The scientists from both research groups work closely together at both research sites.

Their goal is to develop a novel, highly effective cancer therapy based on a combination of radiation therapy and focused ultrasound. Both methods are currently used in the clinical setting for tumor treatment, but are not used in combination. The combination of the two forms of therapy has the theoretical potential to greatly improve tumor treatment, however, research into the fundamental mechanisms of the combined treatment is required prior to routine clinical use.

Precise and targeted radiation therapies are made possible with advanced image-guided techniques. By using imaging technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging, the surrounding tissue can be largely protected against permanent damage. However, the radiation dose is not always sufficient to destroy the tumor. Here, the addition of a further tissue-destroying energy type - the highly intensive acoustic waves of the ultrasound - could bring a decisive advance.

Importantly, radiation therapy is particularly effective when the tumor tissue is well-perfused and oxygenated. However, tumors are often poorly perfused and contain large, low-oxygen areas. With the help of focused ultrasound, these areas can be specifically heated to enhance tumor perfusion to allow more effective radiation therapy. Magnetic resonance tomography will be utilized in the SONO-RAY project to precisely plan and monitor tumor heat treatment by high-intensity focused ultrasound.

Magnetic Resonance Tomography (MRT)-guided Focussed Ultrasound (MRgFUS) for thermal ablation of cancerous tissue within the prostate ©Profound Medical TULSA-PRO (TM) system