Focused ultrasound was recently featured on several episodes of a popular hospital drama series, “Grey's Anatomy.” The show, which averages more than eight million adult viewers per week and airs Thursdays on ABC, included a four-episode storyline in which focused ultrasound treatment was part of an “innovation contest” among doctors to successfully treat a patient with a brain tumor.
The storyline comes at a time when the technology is experiencing increased awareness among consumer and patient groups in particular, due in part to Foundation consumer-focused outreach efforts including our recent participation at CES in Las Vegas and continued promotion of John Grisham’s The Tumor.
While focused ultrasound was dramatized on the program – and “Grey’s Anatomy” producers reached out to the Foundation and other FUS brain experts with questions about the technology before filming – focused ultrasound is still in the early stages of research and development and not currently an approved treatment for brain tumors. However, the field is seeing exponential growth with more than 20 regulatory approvals worldwide, four by the FDA (essential tremor, uterine fibroids, pain from bone metastases, prostate tissue), and more than 75 additional clinical indications are currently in various stages of development.
Approved treatments for brain tumors currently include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, all of which have limitations and side effects. Multiple Foundation-funded technical, preclinical laboratory and clinical research projects are active and ongoing to determine the role of focused ultrasound as a noninvasive alternative or complement to these traditional brain tumor treatments. Focused ultrasound has the potential to provide an alternative to invasive surgery, replace or augment radiosurgery, and may also be able to enhance delivery of chemotherapy or immunotherapy, reducing toxicity and side-effects, and/or promote anti-tumor immune responses. It is our hope and expectation that in the next few years focused ultrasound will be available as an option for brain tumor treatment.
For more commentary about focused ultrasound on “Grey’s Anatomy:"