Startup Showcase: SonALAsense – Using Sonodynamic Therapy to Turn Glioblastoma Multiforme Patients into Cancer Survivors

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Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer, with an average survival rate of only 15 months. SonALAsense, a startup based in Berkeley, California, aims to change that with their groundbreaking Sonodynamic Therapy (SDT) technology. This Startup Showcase will dive into how SonALAsense is using SDT to turn GBM patients into cancer survivors.

The Promise of SDT

SDT is a non-invasive cancer treatment that combines aminolevulinic acid (ALA), a drug, with MRI-guided focused ultrasound, a device. This drug-device combination is unique in that both the drug and the device are required for a therapeutic effect. SDT works by selectively targeting and killing tumor cells through the creation of reactive oxygen species.

Unlike traditional chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can cause significant side effects, SDT is well-tolerated by patients. It is also highly selective, meaning it only targets cancer cells and leaves healthy cells unharmed. This precision makes it a promising option for treating GBM, which is notoriously difficult to treat due to the blood-brain barrier that limits the effectiveness of many drugs.

The Science behind SDT

SonALAsense’s SDT technology is the result of years of research into the science behind sonodynamic therapy. The company’s founder, Dr. Katherine Ferrara, is a world-renowned expert in the field of ultrasound and has been studying the use of ultrasound for therapeutic purposes for over 20 years.

The key to SDT’s effectiveness is the combination of ALA and MRI-guided focused ultrasound. ALA is a naturally occurring substance that is taken up preferentially by cancer cells. When exposed to ultrasound, ALA is activated and produces reactive oxygen species, which in turn kill cancer cells. The ultrasound is delivered using an MRI-guided focused ultrasound device, which allows for precise targeting of the tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. This combination of precision and selectivity makes SDT a highly promising treatment for GBM and other cancers.

Moving Forward with SDT

SonALAsense was founded in 2019 and has made rapid progress in developing and testing its SDT technology. The company has already completed preclinical studies demonstrating the effectiveness of SDT in treating GBM and is now moving into clinical trials. In addition to GBM, SonALAsense is also exploring the use of SDT in other types of cancer, including prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. The company’s ultimate goal is to make SDT a standard-of-care treatment for cancer, providing patients with a safe, effective, and non-invasive option for fighting this devastating disease.


SonALAsense is a startup that is truly making a difference in the fight against cancer. Their use of Sonodynamic Therapy to treat GBM and other types of cancer is groundbreaking and has the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment. With their innovative technology and dedicated team of researchers, SonALAsense is well on its way to turning GBM patients into cancer survivors.


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