Existing microsphere technologies are used as therapy for certain cancers. The therapy is by way of occlusion, when the microspheres are delivered into blood vessels that feed a tumor. The physical dimensions of the microspheres occlude the blood supply and thus, killing the tumor. Some microspheres have also been modified to bind protein, elute drugs, and reduce inflammatory reactions as part of the therapy. However, one technical short-coming of existing microsphere technology is a limited capability to be visualized in real-time. The inability to visualize embolic microspheres during treatment and post treatment could lead to complications and the need for additional treatments, thereby increasing the chance of additional complications.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health – Clinical Center (NIH-CC) have developed a technology that uses bismuth-based beads with a hydrophilic polymer to allow for real-time tracking with a computed tomography (CT) scanner of loco regional treatments. Visualization capability is important for confirmation of proper delivery to the targeted vessels and monitoring of treatment after surgery. The real-time CT visualization capability helps solve a major shortcoming of current embolic microsphere treatments. The beads can be differentiated from other clinical imaging contrast agents – making it easier for physicians to identify the location of the loco-regional treatment, and may improve therapeutic outcomes.