Histotripsy: A new technique which destroys cancer using soundwaves (now in Clinical Trials)

Illustration of histotripsy technology. Image courtesy of Medicine at Michigan Magazine.

A new technique that destroys cancer using soundwaves.  It also spurs the immune system to kill off any of the tumour left, scientists have revealed. The non-invasive treatment only needs to be partially effective to stop the cancer spreading.

It is currently being tested on human liver cancers in the US and Europe following successful trials in rats. The team from the University of Michigan showed the non-invasive sound technology is able to prevent further spread with no evidence of recurrence or metastases in the majority of cases. The treatment, called histotripsy, noninvasively focuses ultrasound waves to mechanically destroy target tissue with millimetre precision. In many cases, the entirety of a cancerous tumour cannot be targeted directly in treatments due to the mass’ size, location or stage.

However, researchers investigated the effects of partially destroying tumours with sound to 50 or 75 per cent and found the technique was still very effective. They showed that in 80 per cent of cases performed on rats, the immune system broke down the rest of the tumour and it did not return.

Professor Zhen Xu, at the University of Michigan, said: “Even if we don’t target the entire tumour, we can still cause the tumour to regress and also reduce the risk of future metastasis. Our transducer delivers high amplitude microsecond-length ultrasound pulses—acoustic cavitation—to focus on the tumour specifically to break it up.

So, I guess you will now be thinking ….Does this work on Neuroendocrine Cancer liver metastases?   The answer is that no one really knows as the human trials have only just begun.  

Histotripsy is a type of ablation but uses a totally different technique which is non-invasive. It uses focused ultrasound waves to mechanically destroy target tissue with millimetre precision. In many cases, the entirety of a cancerous tumour cannot be targeted directly in treatments due to its size, location or stage.

Ablative techniques are currently used on Neuroendocrine Cancers so will this form of ablation work? Again, we simply don’t know for sure without clinical trials. This is hugely different tech.  Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and microwave ablation (MWA) use heat to destroy cancer cells or tumours (more than just the liver). The heat is supplied by electrical currents passed through a special needle placed directly into the liver. This may also be known as percutaneous ablation. Cryoablation for cancer is a treatment to kill cancer cells with extreme cold. During cryoablation, a thin, wand-like needle (cryoprobe) is inserted through your skin and directly into the cancerous tumour.  All of these types are already used on Neuroendocrine Cancer but are invasive in nature.  The success ratios and risks are known and documented. 

The 700kHz, 260-element histotripsy ultrasound array transducer used in Prof. Xu’s lab. Image credit: Marcin Szczepanski, Michigan Engineering

Is this the same as High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU)?

Not really but both may be in a grouping of similar treatments called “Focused Ultrasounds”Histotripsy has some similarities with High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) but whereas HIFU employs thermal energy to ablate tissues, histotripsy harnesses the energy of thousands of microbubbles — called cavitation — to emulsify tissue. 

HIFU is not known as a regular treatment for Neuroendocrine Cancer but is frequently used in (e.g.) Prostate and Uterine Fibroids. I can also see its deployment in cosmetic surgery.  HIFU is limited by long treatment times and the requirement for MRI thermometry or quantitative B-mode imaging for real-time feedback of treatment. Furthermore, thermal ablation of highly perfused tissue can be imprecise, inconsistent, or ineffective.

As far as I am aware, neither HIFU nor Histotripsy has been trialed in Neuroendocrine Cancer patients, nor have they been approved for use in the treatment of Neuroendocrine Cancers. 

Human Clinical Trials of Histotripsy

There are trials in Europe and US.  

US Trial – (8 sites in 6 states) – The HistoSonics System for Treatment of Primary and Metastatic Liver Tumors Using Histotripsy – Full Text View – ClinicalTrials.gov

Europe Trial – (6 sites in 4 countries) The HistoSonics System for Treatment of Primary and Metastatic Liver Tumors Using Histotripsy (#HOPE4LIVER) – Full Text View – ClinicalTrials.gov 

Two of the sites are in UK. So far, two patients have been treated with histotripsy in Leeds and two at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. Cancer types of patients not known. 


The only thing I am sure about is that I will be keeping an eye on the development of Histotripsy and bringing you news directly via all my sites and accounts.  Stay tuned.

As I keep telling you, we should always hope for breakthroughs, but it’s very early days for Neuroendocrine Cancer. 

For the hope angle, read the story of 68-year-old Sheila Riley from UK – click here


Whenever I post about a trial or study, some people get excited without understanding that these new treatments and capabilities can very often take years to come to fruition and it’s also possible that clinical trials can be halted, or that national approval agencies will not approve the final product.  Plus, not everyone will be eligible, so always check the exclusion and inclusion criteria in the relevant clinical trials document.   Please bear that in mind when reading studies/clinical trials posted on RonnyAllan.NET


I am not a doctor or any form of medical professional, practitioner or counsellor. None of the information on my website, or linked to my website(s), or conveyed by me on any social media or presentation, should be interpreted as medical advice given or advised by me.  Neither should any post or comment made by a follower or member of my private group be assumed to be medical advice, even if that person is a healthcare professional as they are not members of the private group or followers of my sites in any official capacity.  Please also note that mention of a clinical service, trial/study or therapy does not constitute an endorsement of that service, trial/study or therapy by Ronny Allan, the information is provided for education and awareness purposes and/or related to Ronny Allan’s own patient experience. This element of the disclaimer includes any complementary medicine, non-prescription over the counter drugs and supplements such as vitamins and minerals.

General Clinical Trials Disclaimer

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided in the clinical trials document. It’s very important to check the trial inclusion and exclusion criteria before making any contact. 

Inclusion of any trial within this blog should not be taken as a recommendation by Ronny Allan. 


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2 thoughts on “Histotripsy: A new technique which destroys cancer using soundwaves (now in Clinical Trials)

  • Ann

    Hi Ronnie

    This treatment has been around for years, there are many treatments out there that big pharma don.t want you to know about people were at the time shut up about it if you get my meaning, Mmmm strange how it is coming to light all of a sudden, Oh and I have Neuroendocrines Tumours in my Lymph nodes after having most of my Pancreas and tumour taken away 2011.

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