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 2019 cancer immunotherapy workshop:
- 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)?
- How do the immune effects of focused ultrasound vary by tumor type?
- What clinical disease targets are ideal for focused ultrasound plus immunotherapy combinations?
- How can we optimize focused ultrasound treatments for immunomodulation ((i.e. drugs combinations, partial vs. total tumor treatment, timing of treatments)?
- What metrics can be used to predict clinical success (T cell ratios, etc)? Can blood samples in the absence of biopsies reliably predict response?
Research Funding Available for Cancer Immunotherapy Projects
As an outcome of the fourth Focused Ultrasound and Cancer Immunotherapy Workshop, the Foundation seeks to fund 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:
- Guidelines for Immune Analysis Following FUS Treatment – Preclinical
- Guidelines for Immune Analysis Following FUS Treatment – Clinical
For more information or to discuss collaborations on the topic of cancer immunotherapy, please contact our Chief Scientific Officer, Jessica Foley, PhD.
- Focused Ultrasound and Cancer Immunotherapy Workshop (September 2021)
- Focused Ultrasound and Cancer Immunotherapy Workshop (July 2019)
- Focused Ultrasound and Cancer Immunotherapy Comprehensive Overview (June 2020)