CRT spins out company to develop cancer surgery machine to melt tumours

2012-01-26 06:30:35

Cancer Research Technology, the commercial arm of Cancer Research UK, has today launched Acublate Limited, a spin-out company which will develop a next-generation High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) surgery device to treat a range of solid tumour types.

HIFU is a highly precise non-invasive type of surgery which uses ultrasound energy to heat and destroy tumours while leaving surrounding healthy tissue intact. The treatment works with immediate benefit and has the potential to reduce side effects compared with current alternative treatments. 

The Acublate device uses an advanced proprietary phased-array system – that is, it targets multiple points in the tumour at once. The system can be steered rapidly in 3D to target and destroy tumours.

It is expected that the device will significantly reduce HIFU treatment times and become a more effective and cheaper alternative to currently available HIFU therapies for the treatment of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Initially, the Acublate device will treat patients with bowel cancer that has spread to the liver. But the technology has the potential to treat a range of cancers.

Cancer Research UK, Imperial Innovations and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust funded the original research to develop the technology. The research was led by founding scientists physicist Professor Jeff Hand at Imperial College London and surgeon Professor Paul Abel at Imperial College London.

Cancer Research Technology, with others, has raised £145,000 to develop the clinical prototype which is expected to be ready within a year. Further funding will be required to run clinical trials of the equipment with the first clinical data expected within 24 months.

Cancer Research Technology, which owns the IP to the technology, is Acublate Limited’s major equity holder and will benefit from any future licence income

Tony Hickson, managing director technology transfer, at Imperial Innovations, said: “As the provider of commercialisation services to the Imperial College Healthcare Trust, Imperial Innovations is extremely pleased to see this cutting-edge treatment being developed by a Cancer Research UK spin-out, and, alongside the ICHT and CRT, has backed the idea, supporting the development of the prototype towards clinical trials.”

Dr Keith Blundy, CRT’s CEO, said: “We’re delighted to be able to take the research into this exciting technology that Cancer Research UK helped fund onto the next stage. The HIFU technology currently approved for clinical use in the UK specifically targets prostate cancer but we hope the Acublate device will be able to treat most solid tumour types.

“It’s also expected to treat patients more quickly, more effectively and with fewer side effects than the current technology.

“We hope to have the first set of data from clinical trials using the equipment to treat bowel cancer that has spread to the liver, within two years.”

Notes to editors

About Imperial Innovations 

Innovations creates, builds and invests in pioneering technologies addressing global problems in healthcare, energy, engineering and the environment.  It combines deep understanding of science and technology with commercial acumen and strong investment expertise. In December 2010 Innovations raised £140m to accelerate the making of, and increase the size of, investments in companies established under its existing intellectual property pipeline agreement with Imperial College London.  The Group also intends to invest in companies founded by or based on technology from the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and University College London. For more information, please visit

About Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust 

  • Imperial College Healthcare comprises Charing Cross, Hammersmith Hospital, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and Western Eye hospitals. It is one of the largest trusts in the country, and in partnership with Imperial College London, is the UK’s first Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC). The AHSC was created to take the research discoveries it makes and translate them into new and improved treatments and techniques to directly benefit patients throughout the Trust
  • Imperial College Healthcare is one of only five National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) comprehensive biomedical research centres. This designation is given to the most outstanding NHS and university research partnerships in the country; leaders in scientific translation and early adopters of new insights in technologies, techniques and treatments for improving health
  • Imperial College Healthcare has some of the lowest mortality rates in the country according to the Dr Foster Guide – an annual, independent report published 2011
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