August 2015 - Immunotherapy Brain Study and More…


August 2015

FUS Immunotherapy for Brain Metastases

Donors Fund Immunotherapy Study

Neuromodulation Webinar

Web Update: FUS Biomechanisms

VA Representatives Support FUS

Charles Steger Joins Council

2015 Summer Interns

Research Award Update: Histotripsy for Clot Lysis

Research Roundup

FUS Effects on Bone

HistoSonics Raises $2.1 Million

Defeating Dementia and more...

Cancer Immunotherapy Conference and more...

Foundation, Melanoma Research Alliance, and Cancer Research Institute Join Forces

Study: Immunotherapy for Brain Metastases

The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) and Cancer Research Institute (CRI) are collaborating with the Foundation to fund a new preclinical research project using focused ultrasound to enhance immunotherapy for melanoma brain metastases.

“It is the Foundation’s belief that focused ultrasound has significant untapped potential in the field of cancer immunotherapy,” said Jessica Foley, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer. "We are dedicated to advancing this work to develop more effective therapies for patients living with melanoma and other types of cancer."

Although significant advances have been made in treating melanoma with immunotherapy, brain metastases remain very difficult to treat. This hurdle is related to the relationship between the brain, the tumor metastases, and an immune system that limits immune cell and antibody access.

“Immunotherapy has shown significant promise for some patients with advanced melanoma, and we hope to expand our understanding and use of immunotherapy to impact all patients – including those with cancer that has spread to the brain,” says Louise Perkins, PhD, Chief Science Officer at MRA. 

Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, CEO and Director of Scientific Affairs at CRI, added, “Cutting-edge investigation centering on focused ultrasound in combination with immunotherapy is an innovative approach, which, we hope, will ultimately benefit patients with any type of cancer that has spread to the brain.”

University of Virginia immunologist Timothy Bullock, PhD, Biomedical Engineering Professor Richard Price, PhD, and Medical Physicist, G. Wilson Miller, PhD, are teaming together to study the use of focused ultrasound in conjunction with microbubbles to increase the natural immune response to tumors in the brain. 


Robert and Molly Hardie


Foundation Donors Help Fund Study

Our collaboration with the Melanoma Research Alliance, Cancer Research Institute, and UVA is made possible by contributions from visionary donors Robert and Molly Hardie. The Hardies have been loyal supporters of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, and we are grateful for their passion and commitment. “All too often many of these early stage innovative studies do not get funded, so we are proud to support the Foundation and the important work of all the partners,” says Robert Hardie.

To help the Foundation in our mission to advance focused ultrasound, please contact Mike Cashman or Nora Seilheimer.

Jean-Francois Aubry

Dr. Aubry also recorded a presentation on the historical development of focused ultrasound to access and treat the brain.

Focused Ultrasound Neuromodulation Webinar

Jean-Francois Aubry, PhD, Research Director at Institut Langevin in Paris and President of the International Society for Therapeutic Ultrasound, recently visited the Foundation to present a webinar on transient neuromodulation. He reviewed the various effects that can be induced in the brain using ultrasound-induced excitation, including:

  • Pulsed focused ultrasound with microbubbles to open the blood-brain barrier
  • Remote palpation using short ultrasound pulses, where tissue displacement is induced by the ultrasonic radiation pressure
  • Temporary modulation of brain activity with low-intensity ultrasound while maintaining the ability to treat the whole brain


Clot Lysis Illustration

New on our Website: FUS Biomechanisms

Focused ultrasound can induce 18 different biological effects when it interacts with tissue. These bioeffects—alone or in combination—are being investigated for use in treating numerous diseases.

Along with updates to the Mechanisms of Action section of our website, a comprehensive White Paper is now available for download that includes illustrations for each mechanism--thermal ablation, opening the blood-brain barrier, and mechanical destruction among others.

All illustrations can be freely used by the community.

Foundation Chief Scientific Officer, Jessica Foley, and Congressman Hurt discuss focused ultrasound brain applications


Virginia Representatives Support Focused Ultrasound

US Congressman Robert Hurt and State Delegate Steve Landes visited the Foundation on August 18 to learn about the promise of focused ultrasound and our mission. The staff shared the latest research developments to come out of the University of Virginia (UVA) and around the globe.

“I commend the Foundation for its leadership and innovation in bringing academic research, treatment facilities, and capital resources all together to collaborate in the best interest of the patient,” said Hurt.

“Virginia has incredible assets related to brain research and improving the understanding of the brain. It is great to hear that the Focused Ultrasound Center at UVA is making such great strides on behalf of Parkinson’s, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s, a disease that has struck my own family,” said Landes.

Charles Steger

Read the coverage by Virginia Business

Former Virginia Tech President Joins Council

Former Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, PhD, has joined the Foundation's Council. “Throughout my career, I have thrived on creating environments to push the frontiers of knowledge,” says Steger. “I am excited to work with the Foundation as they play a critical role in advancing development of focused ultrasound -- an early-stage technology with incredible potential to transform patient care.”

“We are honored to welcome such a visionary leader and passionate investor in education and innovation,” said Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD. “Having overseen the creation of the medical school at Virginia Tech, Charles’ contributions will be valuable as we fuel research and empower the next generation to shape the future of medicine.”


Summer Interns

2015 Summer Interns Tackle Diverse Projects

Nine students spent time with the Foundation team this summer, working on projects spanning from technical research to communications to assessing how the technology fits into the evolving health care environment. Three of the 2014 interns remained with us over the year to delve deeper into their projects.

“As the program evolves, the projects become more complex, and we are able to bring in students from broader backgrounds,” says the Foundation’s Director of Extramural Research, Matt Eames, PhD. “This year, we were fortunate to welcome students from France and Korea, giving the group perspective on the global reach of this technology.”


Zhen Xu

"Luckily, I didn’t know enough about the field to know that it was impossible, and I didn’t know enough to be afraid. So I tried a lot of new parameters that have never been tried before, and I was able to find something that could control cavitation to create tissue fractionation. What I tried was outside the range of what people would do."
– Dr. Xu

Foundation Research Award Update: Ultrasonic Thrombolysis Using Histotripsy

Dr. Zhen Xu and her group recently completed a Foundation-funded study that evaluated the use of histotripsy for thrombolysis—dissolving unwanted blood clots. This important work may one day create non-invasive treatment options for deep vein thrombosis, stroke, myocardial infarction, and other clotting diseases. Dr. Xu’s study investigated the safety of 1) applying histotripsy to free-flowing blood while measuring hemolytic effects; 2) applying “microtripsy” to the lumen of the blood vessel to avoid epithelial damage on the vessel walls; and 3) evaluating the use of bubble-induced, real-time color Doppler for quantitatively monitoring the thrombolysis.


To learn more about Dr. Xu, how she and her colleagues came to discover the phenomena underlying histotripsy, and the broad scope of her work (pediatrics, cardiology, neurology and more) at the University of Michigan, we interviewed her for an investigator profile.


Research Roundup

Parkinson’s Disease
Jin Woo Chang from the Brain Research Institute at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea published a case report of successful unilateral focused ultrasound pallidotomy in a patient with Parkinson’s disease. The non-invasive procedure led to control of both the levodopa-induced dyskinesia and the cardinal motor symptoms. See the paper.

Pancreatic Cancer
University of Washington researchers were able to use pulsed focused ultrasound to interrupt the stromal barrier that makes pancreatic cancer difficult to treat. In the study, the group used cavitation to increase the normalized chemotherapy concentration by up to 4.5-fold.

Profound Medical was able to show accurate and precise conformal thermal ablation of prostate tissue. Read the paper


JTU Article of the Month: Effects of FUS Ablation on Bone

A study from the Netherlands, published in The Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound, investigated the mechanical properties and modeling that occurs in bone after focused ultrasound (FUS) ablation. Because FUS is a promising treatment for bone pain, the group used imaging and histology to identify the cellular level bone damage that activated bone repair mechanisms. They determined that it did not have a mechanical impact on the bone tissue. The open-access article is available on the JTU website.

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HistoSonics Raises Additional $2.1 Million for Vortx Rx Development

In addition to the $15.5 million raised in the previous 5 years, HistoSonics has added $2.1 million in debt, options, and other securities to further develop its Vortx Rx System, a non-invasive, ultrasound-guided histotripsy ablation technology to treat benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). The full story is available online at Fierce Medical Devices.

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The Long War to Defeat Dementia on 8/15/15

Focused Ultrasound Tackles Brain Disorders on 8/5/15

Dr. Michael Lazar Named Medical Director of the SonaCare HIFU Pilot Project in Puerto Vallarta on 7/26/15

Testing Sound Waves as Radiation-Free Medical Treatment on 7/25/15

Real-Time MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound for Focal Therapy of Locally Confined Low-Risk Prostate Cancer: Feasibility and Preliminary Outcomes on 7/24/15

Surround Sound System Treats Blood Pressure in UK Hospital on Engineering & Technology Magazine 7/22/15

EDAP Not Quite There with Regulatory App for Ablatherm HIFU on Seeking 7/21/15

Focused Ultrasound: How Sound Can Heal Your Brain on 7/20/15

Korea’s Ultrasonic Treatment Equipment Went through Medical Entry Barrier…Alpinion Becomes First to Supply to Hospitals on 7/17/15
Call for Abstracts

August 13-27, 2015 Late-Breaking Abstract Submission for ASTRO 2015

Upcoming Events

September 16-19, 2015 Inaugural International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference, New York, NY

October 5-7, 2015 AdvaMed MedTech Conference, San Diego, CA

October 15-16, 2015 3rd European Symposium on Focused Ultrasound Therapy, London, UK

October 18-21, 2015 American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) 57th Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX

November 29-December 1, 2015 Radiology Society of North America (RSNA) 101st Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL
Do you have an event to list in our newsletter? Tell us about it!
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