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Destroying cancerous cells in the liver

Pragya Gupta, a researcher with the IITB-Monash Research Academy, is working on a project that will help identify and destroy cancerous cells in the liver.

Her project is titled, ‘Multi-physics numerical modelling for bio-effects mapping and controlled delivery of ablation dosage in Oncological applications’.

“The medical community has been grappling for long with early diagnosis of abnormal cells in the body and their subsequent treatment—especially non-invasive liver cancer cell ablation,” says Pragya. “Once the abnormal cells are identified, my task will be to provide data that will guide the surgeon about the thermal dosage required for the ablation (scarring or destroying) of the abnormal cells for the particular exposure parameters. The biggest challenge is to ensure that the surrounding healthy cells are not destroyed.”



HIFU can be used to destroy tissue through the heating of the target region using a focused ultrasound beam.

A method to destroy cancer cells that has been gaining increased attention is High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), which is basically a non-invasive image-guided therapy and an alternative to surgical interventions.

Using HIFU is like using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight on a specific area. Focused Ultrasound uses an acoustic transducer to concentrate ultrasound waves on a target. Each individual wave passes through tissue with little effect but at the focal point where the waves converge, the energy can have useful thermal or mechanical effects. HIFU is typically performed with real-time imaging via ultrasound or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to enable treatment targeting and monitoring.

“Focal ultrasound surgery is actually proficient in terms of selective and accurate localised necrosis of the desired regions. However, it requires a proper acoustic window to reach the site,” explains Pragya. “In liver cancer surgery, the position and size of the cancerous cell matters a lot as this could limit their approachability. For example, hindrance created by the presence of the rib cage in the propagating path of ultrasound waves causes very high absorption and reflection from them. Thus, one of the side effects of this treatment is overheating. In practice, the liver moves in an oscillatory manner inside the body due to respiration and its location near the lungs which will again affect the targeted focus and transducer settings. In addition, inhomogeneity of the tissue material and nonlinear propagation of the acoustic wave during the treatment are some of the tasks that increase the level of challenges.”



The IITB-Monash Research Academy is a collaboration between India and Australia that endeavours to strengthen scientific relationships between the two countries. Graduate research scholars like Pragya study for a dually-badged PhD from both IIT Bombay and Monash University, spending time at both institutions to enrich their research experience.

Says Prof Murali Sastry, CEO of the Academy, “Non-invasive liver cancer cell ablation has always been a challenge for medical experts. In order to overcome the same, it is imperative to know the mass-heat transport and fluid flow phenomena in a multi-layer tissue, under the influence of preferred thermal dosages. This research work has been carried out using a multi-physics modelling scheme and experimental work. We hope it can contribute significantly to the growing body of work in the field.”

Research scholar: Pragya Gupta, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: Multi-physics numerical modelling for bio-effects mapping and controlled delivery of ablation dosage in Oncological applications

Supervisors:Prof. Atul Srivastava, Prof. Sunita Chauhan

Contact details: pragya24gupta@gmail.com

This story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student, his supervisors and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.



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