Document Type


Publication Date



This article is the author’s final published version in Theranostics, Volume 10, Issue 18, July 2020, Pages 8143-8161.

The published version is available at Copyright © Bellary et al.


Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common extracranial solid tumor in infants and children, and imposes significant morbidity and mortality in this population. The aggressive chemoradiotherapy required to treat high-risk NB results in survival of less than 50%, yet is associated with significant long-term adverse effects in survivors. Boosting efficacy and reducing morbidity are therefore key goals of treatment for affected children. We hypothesize that these may be achieved by developing strategies that both focus and limit toxic therapies to the region of the tumor. One such strategy is the use of targeted image-guided drug delivery (IGDD), which is growing in popularity in personalized therapy to simultaneously improve on-target drug deposition and assess drug pharmacodynamics in individual patients. IGDD strategies can utilize a variety of imaging modalities and methods of actively targeting pharmaceutical drugs, however in vivo imaging in combination with focused ultrasound is one of the most promising approaches already being deployed for clinical applications. Over the last two decades, IGDD using focused ultrasound with "microbubble" ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs) has been increasingly explored as a method of targeting a wide variety of diseases, including cancer. This technique, known as sonopermeation, mechanically augments vascular permeability, enabling increased penetration of drugs into target tissue. However, to date, methods of monitoring the vascular bioeffects of sonopermeation in vivo are lacking. UCAs are excellent vascular probes in contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) imaging, and are thus uniquely suited for monitoring the effects of sonopermeation in tumors. Methods: To monitor the therapeutic efficacy of sonopermeation in vivo, we developed a novel system using 2D and 3D quantitative contrast-enhanced ultrasound imaging (qCEUS). 3D tumor volume and contrast enhancement was used to evaluate changes in blood volume during sonopermeation. 2D qCEUS-derived time-intensity curves (TICs) were used to assess reperfusion rates following sonopermeation therapy. Intratumoral doxorubicin (and liposome) uptake in NB was evalauted ex vivo along with associated vascular changes. Results: In this study, we demonstrate that combining focused ultrasound therapy with UCAs can significantly enhance chemotherapeutic payload to NB in an orthotopic xenograft model, by improving delivery and tumoral uptake of long-circulating liposomal doxorubicin (L-DOX) nanoparticles. qCEUS imaging suggests that changes in flow rates are highly sensitive to sonopermeation and could be used to monitor the efficacy of treatment in vivo. Additionally, initial tumor perfusion may be a good predictor of drug uptake during sonopermeation. Following sonopermeation treatment, vascular biomarkers show increased permeability due to reduced pericyte coverage and rapid onset of doxorubicin-induced apoptosis of NB cells but without damage to blood vessels. Conclusion: Our results suggest that significant L-DOX uptake can occur by increasing tumor vascular permeability with microbubble sonopermeation without otherwise damaging the vasculature, as confirmed by in vivo qCEUS imaging and ex vivo analysis. The use of qCEUS imaging to monitor sonopermeation efficiency and predict drug uptake could potentially provide real-time feedback to clinicians for determining treatment efficacy in tumors, leading to better and more efficient personalized therapies. Finally, we demonstrate how the IGDD strategy outlined in this study could be implemented in human patients using a single case study.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

PubMed ID




Included in

Radiology Commons