More than 40 experts from around the world gathered for the Focused Ultrasound and Immunotherapy Summit, held in partnership with the Cancer Research Institute on October 14. The group met to critically evaluate the current body of evidence, assess the value of ongoing work, and create a roadmap of projects to address any remaining gaps or questions.
After morning presentations highlighting current research, the attendees spent the afternoon discussing and outlining their vision for the future of this new and exciting field of focused ultrasound (FUS). Our ultimate goal is to reduce the time it takes for FUS and immunotherapy combination treatments to reach clinical adoption.
“Incredible progress has been made in investigating the potential of focused ultrasound to activate the immune system since we laid the groundwork for collaboration at our first workshop,” said Jessica Foley, PhD, the Foundation’s Chief Scientific Officer. “For this Summit, we made great strides to ensure we continue along the optimal path toward clinically relevant therapies.”
The morning presentations included these topics and speakers:
- “Anti-vascular ultrasound for immunomodulation” by Stephen Hunt, MD, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania
- “Low-intensity ultrasound in a melanoma brain metastasis model” by Timothy Bullock, PhD at the University of Virginia
- “Low-intensity ultrasound for reversal of T-cell tolerance” by Chandan Guha, MBBS, PhD at Albert Einstein College of Medicine
- “An investigation into the biological and immunological effects of heat” by Petros Mouratidis, PhD, Institute of Cancer Research
- “Combining ultrasound ablation, CpG and aPD-1” by Katherine Ferrara, PhD at the University of California, Davis
- “GBM Immunotherapy Consortium: comparing immunotherapeutic effects of different ultrasound modes” by Timothy Bullock, PhD, at the University of Virginia
“The overall idea with immunotherapy for cancer is to allow your immune system to see the tumor antigen and respond to it,” said Dr. Ferrara, a distinguished professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis. “If focused ultrasound can release tumor antigen in a controlled manner, then we can apply a local ultrasound treatment to achieve a systemic therapeutic effect.”
The multi-disciplinary group of participants included FUS technical experts and clinicians, leading oncologists and immunologists, government scientists from NIH/FDA, and staff from the Focused Ultrasound Foundation and Cancer Research Institute. At least 25 different organizations were represented.
A major emphasis of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative has been to break down impediments to progress in cancer research by promoting collaboration and data sharing among multiple stakeholders. Therefore, one of the goals of this summit was to bring together all of these stakeholders in an environment that encouraged the free dissemination of information and ideas. We accomplished this by delving into several focus areas, including:
- What roles should the different FUS regimens play in immunomodulation? Are there instances where one would be preferred over the others?
- Is the timing of the FUS and the immunotherapy delivery important to consider?
- What classes of immunotherapies should be considered in combination with FUS?
- What is the ideal first clinical target for translation?
- What metrics can be used to predict clinical success (CD8/Treg ratio, etc.)?
- What are the technology limitations?