Emma Bortz: Reducing Liver Cancer Metastasis via HIFU and Ethanol Exposure

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is an ablative modality which harnesses the mechanical and thermal effects of ultrasound to induce coagulative necrosis in tissue. HIFU is currently FDA approved for use in prostate tissue and uterine fibroid ablation. This project focused on the improvement of HIFU as a cancer therapy by combining it with ethanol ablation.

With previous NTC funding, we conducted a study on the use of ethanol and HIFU in prostate cancer ablation. We found encouraging results and consequently were accepted to present a poster at the annual meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) in Phoenix, AZ. My Dean’s grant from NTC gave me the funding to go to this conference and present my research to Biomedical Engineering peers from around the country. This experience was invaluable to my undergraduate education, as it allowed me to gain feedback on my research. BMES ultimately convinced me to pursue graduate schooling in biomedical engineering and strengthened my presentation skills.

The rest of my funding went towards completing our project on the efficacy of ethanol and HIFU as a liver cancer therapy. I used the funding to purchase materials for a scratch-wound assay, which assesses the migrative potential of cancer cells, an essential step in metastasis. These findings were used in my senior thesis, titled “High-intensity focused ultrasound is synergistic with ethanol in reduction of liver cancer progression in vitro.” I am currently working on finishing a manuscript for a peer-reviewed journal with the data acquired from this grant.

Written by Emma Bortz, Dean’s Grant recipient, 2017