Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Development of Targeted Nano-Bubbles for Ultrasound Imaging

Technology #5173

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Mohamed E.H. El-Sayed
Managed By
Janani Ramaswamy
Licensing Specialist, Medical Deviceses 734-763-9081
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending

Targeted ablation of prostate cancer foci represents an advance over Radical Prostatectomy

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men in the USA. Prostate cancer often develops to a hormone-refractory stage, making hormonal therapies ineffective in most advanced cancers. Radical prostatectomy is the treatment option for advanced local prostate cancer and it involves surgical removal of the prostate gland and pelvic lymph nodes. This procedure is associated with morbidities such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction that greatly deteriorate the patient’s quality of life. A large population of prostate cancer patients have a biologically unifocal disease, suggesting that targeted ablation of the cancer foci can be a valuable treatment strategy, providing an alternative to complete removal of the gland and lymph nodes. Success of a targeted therapy depends on the ability to detect and image tumor tissue and selectively ablate the cancer cells. The key challenge is how to achieve selective eradication of prostate cancer cells without damaging neighboring healthy tissue.

Therapeutic ultrasound using cancer-targeting nano-bubbles enables specific destruction of cancer cells

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new nanomedicine that non-invasively targets prostate cancer cells and triggers their destruction. This technology makes possible sensitive, real-time, in vivo imaging of microscopic cancer lesions while enabling their selective ablation using non-invasive therapeutic ultrasound. Specifically, nano-bubbles coated with prostate-specific antibodies in have been engineered to react specifically to energy supplied by ultrasound, undergoing a process called cavitation. When ultrasound is applied, these nano-bubbles function as surgical scalpels, selectively ablating cancerous tissue with extreme precision. Importantly, this technology is self-limiting in that only cells specifically targeted by the nano-bubbles can be destroyed, due to the low energy thresholds used for the ultrasound procedure. This feature makes the therapy both robust and safe.

Applications and Advantages


  • Ablation of prostate cancer lesions
  • Potential applicable to any solid tumor


  • Targeted nano-bubbles provide increased efficiency and accuracy compared to other ultrasound/cavitation approaches
  • Non-invasive and safe for repeated use