August 2009: Landmark Progress in Noninvasive Treatment of Brain Disorders and more


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Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation NEWSLETTER VOL. 14
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Dear Subscriber,

In the healthcare debate currently raging in the United States, almost everyone agrees that the system is broken – but there is very little consensus on how to fix it.  The issue that everyone does agree on is that patient treatment must become more efficient and cost-effective in order to provide care for everyone that needs it.  Focused ultrasound stands poised as a revolutionary technology that can transform the way medical care is delivered, providing cost-effective and high quality care.

Imagine a future where the healthcare system will benefit from:

  • Treatment of patients on an outpatient basis for conditions that currently require surgery with all its inherent risks – including infection, a costly multi-day hospital stay, and weeks of recovery time with lost job productivity
  • The ability to release chemotherapeutic agents and other drugs only at the desired pinpoint target, avoiding the systemic side effects that greatly limit the use of those drugs today
  • Elimination of clots that block blood flow to the brain soon after the stroke victim arrives at a treatment facility, thus lessening the long-term debilitating effects of strokes
  • Treatments for cancer and neurological diseases for which no good treatment options are currently available.

These are the possibilities that excite us at the Foundation!

We hope the following features will illuminate the vast potential that focused ultrasound holds; and we encourage you to join us in our efforts to ensure that this technology becomes available as quickly as possible, transforming these benefits from a dream to a reality within our healthcare system.



Landmark Progress in Noninvasive Treatment of Brain Disorders

Ten-patient functional neurosurgery feasibility study shows potential for treating brain disorders with MR-guided focused ultrasound

A groundbreaking new study has paved the way for clinical studies on the noninvasive treatment of a broad spectrum of brain disorders including Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, stroke, and brain tumors.

JeanmonodA team at the University of Zürich, in Switzerland, has completed a pilot study using MR-guided focused ultrasound to treat 10 patients with neuropathic pain. The origin of pain in these patients included post-amputation phantom limb syndrome, nerve injury, stroke, trigeminal neuralgia, and post-herpetic neuralgia from shingles.  The findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of Annals of Neurology.

The study was partially funded by the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation, which funds translational and clinical research into new therapeutic applications of MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS).

The preliminary results in these patients are comparable to those obtained with conventional therapy – radiofrequency ablation – an invasive procedure that involves making an incision in the scalp, drilling a hole in the skull, inserting an electrode through normal brain tissue into the thalamus, and using radiofrequency electromagnetic waves to create the lesion.

Functional neurosurgery involves alteration of the brain’s circuitry to treat various neurological conditions such as pain, movement, and behavioral disorders. It is a growing discipline that has developed over more than 60 years.  In general, treatment involves creating  lesions (destruction) in a neural circuit using radiofrequency ablation, or placing an electronic deep brain stimulator (DBS) to modulate the activity of a circuit.  Ablation has the advantage of treating the patient with a single procedure; however, it involves the risk of long-term neurological complications if the location of the lesion is suboptimal. 

Use of DBS has the advantage of reversibility in the event of improper location, but is far..

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FUS Foundation Fellowship Award Recipients

The education of clinicians is critical to the widespread adoption of MR-guided focused ultrasound. In an effort to increase the number of physicians trained in the use of this revolutionary technology, the Foundation offers fellowships that provide qualified physicians with combined clinical and research training opportunities in the field of MR-guided focused ultrasound. We are pleased to announce the following new fellowship recipients:

  • Thilo Hoelscher, M.D. – A six-month fellowship to be carried out at the University of California, San Diego, under the mentorship of Dr. William Bradley. The fellowship will focus on the application of MR-guided focused ultrasound in the treatment of stroke. ($50,000)
  • Julia Kamp, M.D. – A yearlong part-time fellowship to be carried out at Charité Berlin under the mentorship of Drs. Bernd Hamm and Alexander Beck. The focus of the fellowship will be on the use of MR-guided focused ultrasound for treating uterine fibroids in women seeking pregnancy. ($50,000)
For further information on applying for one of our fellowships, and for updates on guidelines and policies of the Fellowship Program, please visit our web site.

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New additions to our Research & Fellowship Advisory Committees

With the addition of four more members since our last newsletter, our Research Advisory Committee (RAC) now numbers twenty-seven of the world’s experts in focused ultrasound. The RAC is a volunteer group that performs the vital function of reviewing all the research funding applications received by the Foundation. This selection process ensures that funding decisions are made with scientific rigor, with comments from the reviewers also fine-tuning the overall project plan. The Foundation welcomes to the RAC Alexander “Sasha” Bystritsky, M.D. (UCLA), Peter Scardino, M.D., F.A.C.S. (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York), Anke Weissenborn, M.Sc. (Siemens), and Seung-Schik Yoo, Ph.D. (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston). [click here for further details]

We also welcome Wladyslaw Gedroyc, M.D. (St Mary’s Hospital, London), who joins our Fellowship Advisory Committee (FAC). The Foundation funds fellowships that enable clinicians to gain valuable experience working with MRI-guided focused ultrasound equipment in clinical and research settings. Dr. Gedroyc is one of the world’s leading experts in MRI-guided focused ultrasound technology and also acts as a mentor for focused ultrasound fellows. [click here for further details]


New Expertise Added for Focused Ultrasound Clinical Trials

Robin Jones joins the Foundation as the Director of Clinical Trials Coordination.  Robin’s 11 years of clinical research experience include project start-up for global studies, corporate training, and instructional design, site monitoring, investigative site support, and essential document review.  Prior to joining the Foundation, Robin worked as a manager of Clinical Operations for PRA International, a Contract Research Organization.  Initially, Robin will oversee the implementation of the Uterine Fibroid Patient Registry and the development of the Brain Program clinical trials.

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Upcoming Conference Reminder: ISTU

ISTUInternational Symposium on Therapeutic Ultrasound (ISTU 2009), September 24th - 26th, Aix en Provence, France. Among the exciting topics, it will feature 4 sessions dedicated to HIFU-mediated drug delivery, 2 sessions on HIFU applications in the brain, and a fundamental session on physics and bioeffects.

Other sessions also present the most recent research works on HIFU surgery, HIFU applications in the prostate, tissue erosion and sonothrombolysis. Finally, three sessions talk about guidance techniques monitoring, treatment planning, & quality assessment.

Be sure to visit the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation's booth at ISTU to find out more about our Research Awards Program!

Discounted registration is still available until August 31st and discounted hotel booking through ISTU is available until August 28th.

More information can be found on the ISTU 2009 website.

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Fibroid Relief Event in Chicago

Fibroid Relief At Last – Chicago” was held at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on June 9, 2009.  This first-of-its-kind event brought together patients, medical experts, and support groups dealing with uterine fibroids. The gathering created a forum for discussion, Q&A, and greater understanding of current options in fibroid relief. 

Fibroid ReliefThe event featured four panelists:  Executive Director Joy Polefrone, Ph.D., of Fibroid Relief, prominent Chicago gynecologists Leonard Lawson, M.D., and Richard Mintzer, M.D., of Medical Imaging of Northbrook Court, and patient advocate Frances Thomas

More than 50 attendees engaged in animated discussion for well over two hours!  We were thrilled with the response of participants and the high level of interest they displayed for continuing efforts in patient education and awareness in the Chicago Area.  We look forward to ongoing collaboration with treatment sites like Medical Imaging of Northbrook Court, working toward an increased understanding of uterine fibroids and the full range of treatments – specifically options that are minimally or non-invasive.

Please stay tuned to Fibroid Relief for a calendar of “Fibroid Relief At Last” events in the coming months.  Our next Fibroid Relief At Last event will be held at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, England, on September 16, 2009, at 5 PM.

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FUSF Receives $1 Million Gift for Brain Tumor Research

An individual who wishes to remain anonymous has just donated $1 million to the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation.  The funds will be used primarily to support research on the use of focused ultrasound for treating brain tumors.

Motivated by a strong personal as well as a family commitment to develop new possibilities for people with life-threatening brain tumors, the donor is excited to join others and invest in the Foundation’s important work – accelerating the development and adoption of non-invasive focused ultrasound treatment. 

Dr. Neal Kassell offered his comments about the importance of this gift: “We are at a critical juncture in focused ultrasound research, where investments of this magnitude can have an enormous multiplier effect on what can be accomplished in the next five years.  Generous gifts such as this one enable us to move quickly to expand the research and clinical trial network. Each gift helps us to shrink the normal 25-year process into a much shorter time.”


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Recent Website Features

Some of the articles we've featured recently on our website include:

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