Cancer Immunotherapy Program

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

Promising cancer immunotherapy drugs have been approved to treat more than 20 different cancers, with the potential to achieve remission and even cure certain patients. Most notably, checkpoint inhibitors target specific regulatory checkpoints and take the brakes off the immune response. Despite their demonstrated benefits of tumor regression and increased overall survival, these therapies are only effective in 20-40% of patients. For some patients, side effects of immunotherapy treatments can also limit their long-term effectiveness.

Focused ultrasound can initiate a powerful anti-tumor immune response that could potentially address the limitations of current immunotherapy treatments to:

  • Stimulate immune response to convert cold tumors into hot tumors, making more patients responders
  • Augment effectiveness of immunotherapeutics to enable a more robust and prolonged response to drugs and decrease the dose of drugs needed, thereby reducing side effects
  • Enhance delivery of immunotherapeutics to tumors

Given its noninvasiveness, use of non-ionizing radiation, and ability for precise ablation throughout the body with no dose limitations, focused ultrasound could be an appealing option for combination with immunotherapeutics.

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 past cancer immunotherapy workshops:

  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?
  6. Which new therapeutics may synergize with focused ultrasound?

FUS-IO Landscape Analysis

In April 2023, the Foundation published a landscape analysis to evaluate the rapidly growing field of focused ultrasound immuno-oncology (FUS-IO). The team compiled a library of FUS-IO references and assessed where the field stands with respect to key questions listed above. See the Landscape Analysis

Research Funding Available for Cancer Immunotherapy Projects

The Foundation is always seeking to fund both clinical and preclinical projects in the FUS-IO space. In recent years we have expressed a particular interest in those projects addressing either the effects of focused ultrasound on the tumor vasculature (with or without antiangiogenic therapy) or the outcomes of partial versus total tumor ablation. Clinical phase 1 or window of opportunity trials combining focused ultrasound with an immunotherapeutic are also of interest. All abstracts should be directed to Jessica Foley, PhD.

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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