Bulletin March 2011

Publication of the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation
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March 29, 2011
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"This meeting was a tremendous success and we met all of our stated objectives. We even met an unstated objective, which was to reignite the extraordinary level of enthusiasm and engagement so palpable last October at the Foundation's 2nd International Symposium on MR-guided Focused Ultrasound."
– Neal Kassell, M.D., Chairman, FUS Foundation

"This is the first time that this group came together as a whole. Participants quickly solidified into a community and formed new working relationships and collaborations that will speed up the pace of progress in this promising field."
Joy M. Polefrone, Ph.D., Director of Focal Drug Delivery, FUS Foundation

"The workshop allowed researchers and clinicians to better understand each other's perspective in terms of developing the best approach for the treatment of disease – that some things might seem unimportant from a scientific perspective but are critical to the patient's quality of life. With this understanding, we can begin to pursue things in the research setting that will allow for suitable translation into clinical use."
Maya Thanou, Ph.D., King’s College, UK

 "Thank you for the invitation to participate in the workshop, which was not only perfectly organized, but was most importantly very interesting. I really enjoyed the discussions we had this morning."
- Tim Greten, M.D., National Institutes of Health, USA

"Thanks for pulling together a very productive and informative meeting.  I felt the discussion was excellent all around and it was great to see all the excitement around the development of HIFU."
Robert A. Reed, Ph.D., Celsion Corp., USA

"The indication focus of the meeting was very productive and allowed the group to cover a great deal with greater depth than could have otherwise."
Arik Hanannel, M.D., InSightec, Ltd., Israel

Focal Drug Delivery Workshop Supercharges Research and Development Community

Held March 21-23, 2011, the FUS Foundation’s first Focal Drug Delivery Workshop marked a major milestone in the field of MR-guided focused ultrasound and set the stage for advancing a new generation of personalized medical treatments for cancers of the brain, pancreas and liver. New drug delivery treatments for both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are expected to quickly follow.

The invitational workshop fueled the spirit of collaboration among its 63 participants – who travelled from ten countries and represented 36 institutions – and ignited a new level of enthusiasm for fast-tracking the development of new clinical applications of an innovative treatment approach known as focused ultrasound-mediated drug delivery, or focal drug delivery.

Workshop achieved all objectives
Organized at the request of the leading focused ultrasound researchers who participated in the Foundation's 2010 Drug Delivery Core Stakeholder meeting, the workshop had three objectives:

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Video of Drug Delivery Workshop closing remarks >
  • Foster collaboration
    The two-day agenda was structured to facilitate lively and productive discussion among representatives of the international research community, industry and government. Small group breakout sessions, centered on priority indications and enabled participants to share their varying perspectives and define collaborative opportunities. Participants also identified key research questions and suggested Foundation funding priorities. 
  • Confirm priority indications
    Brain, pancreas and liver cancer emerged as the top priority indications with prostate and head and neck cancers viewed has more futuristic in nature.  Participants discussed promising pre-clinical research related to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and agreed that new focal drug delivery treatments for these debilitating conditions could imminently enter development. Choices were based on clinical potential and the priority list developed at last year's core stakeholder meeting.
  • Finalize fast-track roadmaps for top indications
    During breakout sessions, workshop participants revised and/or finalized the research roadmaps that had been drafted by the core stakeholder group. They identified and outlined the key experiments needed to advance clinical applications in pancreas, liver and brain cancers.

Next steps will lead to project funding

  • Formation of Drug Delivery Working Group
    Workshop attendees will be invited to continue their discussions and collaborations by participating in the Drug Delivery Working Group, which will communicate via the Foundation's online Collaborative Research Network.

  • Steering Committee review and recommendations
    A Drug Delivery Program Steering Committee will conduct feasibility assessments of roadmap initiatives and key experiments identified at the workshop and make recommendations to the Foundation.
  • Foundation funding

    Based on Steering Committee recommendations, the Foundation will provide funding to selected research projects.

Focal Drug Delivery could benefit millions of patients

An innovative approach, focused ultrasound-mediated drug delivery involves the use of pharmaceutical agents that are encapsulated in special carriers and travel intact through a patient's bloodstream. These agents are activated when they arrive at a target treatment site. In cancer applications, focal drug delivery is expected to increase the amount of chemotherapy that reaches tumors and to eliminate the toxic side effects associated with therapies that are administered systemically. The key treatment components include:

  • Drug carriers (such as liposomes, microbubbles or nanoparticles) encapsulate pharmaceutical agents. Carriers are designed to be sensitive to ultrasound energy or to increase the uptake of drugs in tumors.

  • Focused Ultrasound provides energy to increase the delivery and/or penetration of drug carriers into the cancer at the tumor site.

  • MR-imaging visualizes the target treatment site and monitors accurate delivery of focused ultrasound. In the future, MR-imaging may be used to monitor the progress of drug carriers as they travel through a patient’s bloodstream to the target site.
Attendees at the Drug Delivery Workshop

Attendees at the FUS Foundation's first Focal Drug Delivery Workshop.

FUS Foundation: a catalyst for collaboration  
As part of its mission to accelerate the development and availability of clinical applications of MR-guided focused ultrasound, the FUS Foundation has identified focal drug delivery as an area of immense potential. In an epidemiological sense, this approach could benefit a greater number of patients than any other focused ultrasound application.

The development of focal drug delivery applications is particularly challenging because it involves multiple industries (both device and medical therapies) and stakeholders. Collaboration is paramount to achieving progress in this arena. Recognized as an advocate and nexus for collaboration, the Foundation has agreed to serve as a catalyst and to play a facilitative role in advancing research and development partnerships within the international focal drug delivery community.

The Foundation began its Drug Delivery initiative in 2009 by reaching out to key researchers to assess their needs and interests.  Ultimately, these conversations led to the 2010 Drug Delivery Core Stakeholder meeting. Three key outcomes emerged from that meeting:

  • list of top five priority indications;

  • identification of leaders/champions in each of these five indications;

  • request from researchers that the Foundation serve as a catalyst for collaboration by organizing workshops and working groups and provide seed funding for essential research projects.

Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation | 213 7th Street, NE | Charlottesville VA | 22902

Questions and comments about this newsletter should be sent to the Foundation's Director of Communications, Ellen C. McKenna (emckenna@fusfoundation.org)