Nanobubble ultrasound contrast agents for enhanced delivery of thermal sensitizer to tumors undergoing radiofrequency ablation

Pharm Res. 2014 Jun;31(6):1407-17. doi: 10.1007/s11095-013-1100-x. Epub 2013 Aug 14.


Purpose: Pluronic has been shown to sensitize various tumor cell lines to chemotherapy and hyperthermia by altering the membrane fluidity, depleting ATP, and modulating the heat shock protein 70 expression. In our prior work, Pluronic was also used to formulate nanosized ultrasound contrast agents. In the current study we evaluate the use of these contrast agents as vehicles for image-guided delivery of Pluronic to improve outcomes of tumor radiofrequency (RF) ablation.

Methods: Lipid-shelled Pluronic nanobubbles were prepared and examined for size distribution, zeta potential, stability, biodistribution, accumulation of nanobubbles in the tumor, and treatment efficacy. LS174-T xenograft tumor-bearing mice were used to evaluate tumor growth suppression and measure treatment efficacy after RF ablation.

Results: The average diameter of Pluronic bubbles was 230 nm, and initial bubble echogenicity was 16 dB. In vitro, cells exposed to Pluronic nanobubbles exhibited low cytotoxicity in the absence of ultrasound, even if heat (43 ºC) was applied. When the cells were exposed to Pluronic nanobubbles, heat, and ultrasound; viability was significantly reduced. In vivo, tumors treated with ultrasound-modulated nanobubbles prior to RF ablation showed a significant reduction in growth compared to the RF alone (P<0.05).

Conclusion: Lipid and Pluronic-shelled, echogenic nanobubbles combined with ultrasound modulation can serve as an effective theranostic method for sensitization of tumors to RF ablation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Contrast Media / chemistry*
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microbubbles
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Ultrasonography / methods*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Contrast Media