Sound waves and antineoplastic drugs: The possibility of an enhanced combined anticancer therapy

Loreto B. Feril, Takashi Kondo, Shin ichiro Umemura, Katsuro Tachibana, Angelo H. Manalo, Peter Riesz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Kremkau wrote a historical review of the use of ultrasound in cancer therapy in 1979. In 1990, Kondo and Kano published a Japanese review of the implications of the thermal and nonthermal effects of ultrasound in the treatment of cancer. Again in 2000, Kondo et al reviewed the therapeutic applications of ultrasound and shock wave, emphasizing their thermal and cavitational effects. Here we focus on the effects of ultrasound or shock waves in combination with anticancer agents, emphasizing their mechanisms of action and interaction. Most of the studies cited here reported promising results. Although the extent of the augmented combined effects in vivo is limited, synergism is the rule in vitro. In addition to the thermal effect of ultrasound, cavitational effects undoubtedly played a major role in both ultrasound and, more prominently, in shock wave therapy. Although the mechanism of the nonthermal noncavitational effects on biological processes is obscure, several factors, including temperature and the occurrence of cavitation and inertial cavitation, probably coexist and blend with these other effects. Magnification of anticancer activity results mainly from increased localization of drugs or other agents in vivo and increased intracellular permeabilisation both in vivo and in vitro. On the other hand, sublethal damage caused by ultrasound or shock waves may render cells more susceptible to the effects of the agents, and both may act together, further amplifying these effects. We thus conclude that proper combination of an appropriate agent and ultrasound or shock wave should help improve cancer therapy by minimizing the side effects of drugs by lowering the effective dose and reducing the systemic concentration while increasing the efficiency of the therapy as a whole. Future studies should reveal specific conditions in this combined therapy that will lead to optimal outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-187
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Medical Ultrasonics
Issue numberWINTER
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Dec 1


  • Anti-cancer agent
  • Combined anticancer therapy
  • Shock wave
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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