Starving the Cancer: Fluid dynamics to the rescue


The 21st century has heralded the foray of medical science into unknown realms of ground breaking research. But Science itself is woven with such intricate relationships that we may pose questions and often it is where the answer comes from that surprises us more.

So what does the fluid dynamics or in particular, bubble dynamics have to do with cancer?

The answer in one word is Embolotherapy. Poornima who researches on the subject at the Fluid Mechanics Laboratory in the Department of Applied Mechanics explains further.

There are many forms of cancer which are difficult to treat with the traditional methods like Chemotherapy, Surgical Intervention, etc. Further, even if treated with these methods, the survival rates are minimal.

Hence to help overcome these difficulties, a treatment modality called as ‘Embolotherapy’ is used for treatment of such cancers. Embolotherapy is a minimally invasive or so-called “key-hole” surgical procedure in which a blocking agent (’emboli’) is delivered through a catheter, into the targeted blood vessel, to inhibit or block blood flow to a tumour, thereby starving it. The use of solid emboli is complicated requiring either surgical procedures or very selective catheter placement to minimize blocking blood flow of normal tissue.

A potentially better method of embolotherapy is the use of a site-activated gas bubble to block the blood vessel. It encompasses a more precise and less invasive delivery of the bubble. This approach introduces superheated but stable, perfluorocarbon droplets into the blood vessel upstream from the tumour and then acoustically activates the droplets to form bubbles, which are then lodged at the tumour thereby blocking the blood flow to them.

In her work, Poornima has designed the human blood vessel as a simple two dimensional rectangular symmetric bifurcating microchannel and is working on understanding the lodging and dislodging of the gas bubble and its splitting behaviour using a numerical scheme.

Research is not limited to merely seeking solutions to problems but strives to stand at the precipice of discoveries that improve the quality and longevity of our lives. Beyond the medicines, beyond the chemotherapy, beyond the radiation, beyond the surgeries, cancer cure has come a long way in making the healing process safer, painless and most importantly successful.

Compiled by Ranjini Balan, correspondent

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