Medicine of the Future: Synergies between Drug and Physical Therapy Approaches
The role of Physics in Modern Medical Therapy: An Overview
Physics has taken on an increasingly important role in medicine in recent decades, especially in the areas of diagnostics and therapy. In the therapeutic field, physical methods offer promising alternatives or complements to conventional drug treatments. In this overview, we will present some of the most important physical therapy approaches as examples that are used today in various medical specialties.
- Radiation therapy:
Radiotherapy is one of the best-known forms of physical therapy and is often used to treat cancer. In this method, high-energy particle beams, such as X-rays or proton beams, are directed at the tumour to destroy its cells and stop tumour growth. Radiotherapy can be used as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with other forms of therapy, such as chemotherapy or surgery.
- High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU):
HIFU is a minimally invasive therapy in which ultrasound waves are focused on a small, precisely defined area in the body. The resulting heat leads to the destruction of tissue, for example to sclerosing tumour cells or treating uterine fibroids. HIFU can also be used for targeted drug release, as the ultrasound waves release active substances bound to nanoparticles in the target tissue.
- Magnetic resonance guided focal laser ablation (MRgFLA):
MRgFLA is a minimally invasive technique in which a laser is inserted and heated in the target tissue under continuous MRI control. This precisely and gently destroys the surrounding tissue. MRgFLA is mainly used in the treatment of prostate cancer, but also offers potential for the therapy of other types of cancer or benign diseases.
- Deep brain stimulation (DBS):
Deep brain stimulation is a neurosurgical technique in which electrodes are implanted in specific regions of the brain to deliver electrical impulses. This can modulate neural circuits and relieve symptoms of conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dystonia or epilepsy. DBS can also be used to treat treatment-resistant depression.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT):
PDT is a treatment method that uses light-sensitive drugs (photosensitizers) in combination with light of a specific wavelength to selectively kill cancer cells or other diseased cells. The photosensitizer accumulates in the target tissue and is activated by the light, producing toxic oxygen species that damage or kill the cells. PDT is mainly used to treat skin cancer, but also certain internal tumours or infections.
- Electrochemotherapy (ECT):
Electrochemotherapy combines the use of chemotherapy drugs with electric fields to increase the permeability of the cell membrane, thus improving the uptake of the drugs into the target cells. This leads to increased efficacy of the chemotherapy while reducing systemic toxicity. ECT is used in particular for the treatment of skin and soft tissue tumours.
Cryotherapy is a technique that uses extreme cold to target and destroy cells and tissues. It is used to treat a variety of benign and malignant conditions, including skin lesions, prostate cancer and liver metastases. Cryotherapy can also be used to relieve pain in chronic pain syndromes.
Conclusion: Physical technologies are expanding the field of innovative treatments.
It is expected that physics will play an increasingly important role in medical therapy in the near future. The rapid development of new technologies and the expansion of the general understanding of physical processes in the human body will enable the development of innovative treatment methods such as transcranial pulse stimulation (TPS) for the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia . Pharmacy and medical technology will increasingly work hand in hand to exploit synergies between drug and physical therapy approaches.
This collaboration will enable personalised, targeted and more efficient treatments that have the potential to improve patients’ quality of life and prognosis. The integration of physics and pharmacy also offers the opportunity to reduce side effects and increase the efficacy of drugs by using physical methods to target the release of active ingredients. Overall, this interdisciplinary collaboration will make a significant contribution to improving medical care.
As research in this field is continuously advancing, it is important that physicians and scientists actively keep abreast of the latest developments and opportunities in order to provide their patients with the best possible care using state-of-the-art methods.