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BACKGROUND: TARDOX is a Phase I single center study of ultrasound triggered targeted drug delivery in adult oncology patients with incurable liver tumours. This proof of concept study is designed to demonstrate the safety and feasibility of targeted drug release and enhanced delivery of doxorubicin from thermally sensitive liposomes (ThermoDox®) triggered by mild hyperthermia induced by focused ultrasound in liver tumours. A key feature of the study is the direct quantification of the doxorubicin concentration before and after ultrasound exposure from tumour biopsies, using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). METHODS/DESIGN: The study is conducted in two parts: Part 1 includes minimally-invasive thermometry via a thermistor or thermocouple implanted through the biopsy co-axial needle core, to confirm ultrasound-mediated hyperthermia, whilst Part 2 is carried out without invasive thermometry, to more closely mimic the ultimately intended clinical implementation of the technique. Whilst under a general anaesthetic, adult patients with incurable confirmed hepatic primary or secondary (metastatic) tumours receive a single cycle of ThermoDox®, immediately followed by ultrasound-mediated hyperthermia in a single target liver tumour. For each patient in Part 1, the HPLC-derived total doxorubicin concentration in the ultrasound-treated tumour is directly compared to the concentration before ultrasound exposure in that same tumour. For each patient in Part 2, as the tumour biopsy taken before ultrasound exposure is not available, the mean of those Part 1 tumour concentrations is used as the comparator. Success of the study requires at least a two-fold increase in the total intratumoural doxorubicin concentration, or final concentrations over 10 μg/g, in at least 50% of all patients receiving the drug, where tissue samples are evaluable by HPLC. Secondary outcome measures evaluate safety and feasibility of the intervention. Radiological response in the target tumour and control liver tumours are analysed as a tertiary outcome measure, in addition to plasma pharmacokinetics, fluorescence microscopy and immunohistochemistry of the biopsy samples. DISCUSSION: If this early phase study can demonstrate that ultrasound-mediated hyperthermia can effectively enhance the delivery and penetration of chemotherapy agents intratumorally, it could enable application of the technique to enhance therapeutic outcomes across a broad range of drug classes to treat solid tumours. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT02181075, Edura-CT Identifier: 2014-000514-61.Ethics Number: 14/NE/0124.

Original publication




Journal article


J ther ultrasound

Publication Date





FUS, Focused ultrasound, HIFU, Liver tumour(s), Lyso-thermosensitive liposomal doxorubicin (LTLD), Targeted drug delivery, Therapeutic ultrasound, ThermoDox®, Triggered release