The Foundation has identified cancer immunotherapy as a key area where focused ultrasound could improve clinical outcomes for many patients.

NCI immunomodulationThe field of cancer immunotherapy is progressing rapidly with several new agents approved by the FDA just this year. Most exciting are checkpoint inhibitors that “take the brakes off” the immune response and enable a stronger anti-tumor immune response. Despite their demonstrated benefits, these therapies are effective in only 20-40% of patients. These drugs may be more effective in patients with a better baseline immune response prior to treatment. This baseline can be improved by radiation or other ablative therapies like focused ultrasound.

Ablative therapies – radiation, radiofrequency, cryoablation, laser, and focused ultrasound – have demonstrated the ability to stimulate an immune response in preclinical and clinical studies. In addition, these therapies have been successful when used in combination with immunotherapy, by inducing an initial immune response that immunotherapy can then enhance.

Focused ultrasound could potentially enhance the effects of immunotherapy. Given its non-invasiveness, use of non-ionizing radiation, and ability for precise ablation throughout the body with no dose limitations, focused ultrasound could be more appealing for this combination therapy than other ablative modalities.

To understand the true potential for focused ultrasound immunomodulation in cancer therapy, the Foundation has developed a dedicated program to address the following key questions, as defined by our Cancer Immunotherapy Scientific Advisory Board and participants at our most recent cancer immunotherapy workshop:

  1. What are the comparative immune effects – i.e. signaling pathways/molecules – induced by different focused ultrasound modes? How do these compare to other therapies (i.e. radiation, cryoablation, RF ablation)?
  2. How do the immune effects of focused ultrasound vary by tumor type?
  3. What clinical disease targets are ideal for focused ultrasound plus immunotherapy combinations?
  4. How can we optimize focused ultrasound treatments for immunomodulation ((i.e. drugs combinations, partial vs. total tumor treatment, timing of treatments)?
  5. What metrics can be used to predict clinical success (T cell ratios, etc)? Can blood samples in the absence of biopsies reliably predict response?

The Foundation encourages applications for funding of collaborative projects to address these key questions. For all studies, whether Foundation-funded or otherwise, we recommend the use of these immune analysis guidelines:

For more information or to discuss collaborations on the topic of cancer immunotherapy, please contact our Chief Scientific Officer, Jessica Foley, PhD.

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