December 2009: “Center of Excellence” Opens at UVA and more...


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Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation NEWSLETTER VOL. 15
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Dear Subscriber,

Exciting things continue to develop in the world of MR guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) and the Foundation. We are vigorously seeking to put this revolutionary medical technology in the hands of clinicians quickly so that diseases that affect all of us can be treated like never before.   

In this edition of our newsletter, we celebrate the founding of the Foundation's first Center of Excellence at the University of Virginia, which seeks to lead the way in the development and application of MR-guided focused ultrasound by bringing together significant resources and an expert interdisciplinary clinical staff.

Also, the Foundation continues to enlist industry leaders for both its staff and advisory committees who can both provide the Foundation with skilled leadership and effectively carry the focused ultrasound banner. The Foundation has further expanded its cadre of professionals with the hiring of the technical director of the Brain Program, the addition of the Philips Healthcare CEO to its Board of Directors, and by establishing a Council to further advise and advocate for the Foundation.

If you're a researcher, see how our Research Awards can enable you to push the boundaries of what this revolutionary technology can do.  If you're a clinician, apply for one of our Fellowship Awards to equip you to assist with research programs as well as treating patients in approved applications.

But most importantly, visit our website and find out how you can get involved in bringing this technology, which has the potential to revolutionize medicine as much as the scalpel did, to millions of patients who would benefit from its use today.


Focused Ultrasound “Center of Excellence” opens at University of Virginia – aims to hasten adoption of new technology

Five years in the making, the first of several “Centers of Excellence” planned by the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation was dedicated at the University of Virginia on September 14. Its mission: to become a leader in translational (or applied) and clinical research, training, and patient care, employing MR-guided Focused Ultrasound.

UVA Center of Excellence The UVA Center – and others like it still to be created – will play a central role in spurring the development of this new and promising technology.

“The mission of the Foundation is to develop new applications and to accelerate the worldwide adoption of focused ultrasound,” stated Neal F. Kassell, MD, chairman and founder of the Foundation. “Through Centers of Excellence we can make this happen sooner – and thereby reduce the death, disability, and suffering of untold numbers of patients.”
Dr. Kassell, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Virginia, has championed the focused ultrasound technology ever since realizing its importance in 2004. He created the Foundation in 2006.  To expand the technology’s global footprint, the Foundation is reviewing potential sites for other Centers of Excellence in Europe, North and South America, and Asia.  Each of these Centers will feature state-of-the-art equipment and research facilities.  They will be multidisciplinary and interdepartmental, and will engage collaboratively with one other.  Most importantly, the Centers will share a commitment to rapidly bringing the fruits of their focused ultrasound research to bear on treating patients.

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Doctors and dignitaries gather to celebrate opening of new Focused Ultrasound Center

Ribbon CuttingOver 140 attendees assembled for the official Dedication of the UVA Focused Ultrasound Surgery Center on the afternoon of September 14th, at the Jordan Hall conference center of the University of Virginia.

Neal F. Kassell, MD, professor of neurosurgery at UVA, and founder and chairman of the Foundation, noted that focused ultrasound is where MRI was 20 years ago. “In the next 10 years, everybody here will have been treated with focused ultrasound or will know someone who has,” Dr. Kassell predicted. “This new technology has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people – each day’s delay translates into unnecessary death and disability.”

Leonard W. Sandridge Jr., executive vice president and chief operating officer of UVA, described the initiative as “a perfect example of how difficult tasks require lots of people to come together.” He also commented on Dr. Kassell’s efforts in establishing the new facility. “This center would not have been a reality without Neal Kassell’s vision and dogged persistence,” he said. Mr. Sandridge then expressed appreciation to the Commonwealth of Virginia for their $4 million support, and anticipated a gradual move of the use of FUS from the lab to the bedside. “Ultimately, the patients are what this is all about. They will be aided in ways that are less intrusive and this will become the standard of care.” Dr. Vortman, Dr. Li, and Dr. Matsumoto applaud the opening.

The Honorable William J. Howell, speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, reflected on Dr. Kassell’s dedication to medicine and the well-being of his patients. “The Commonwealth is honored to be a partner in this exciting new exercise,” he added.

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Speakers from Arizona to Zurich join in research symposium to mark opening of Focused Ultrasound Center at UVA

To celebrate the opening of UVA’s new Focused Ultrasound Center, an international array of speakers joined in a research symposium on September 14. The symposium featured presentations from the UVA team that will run the center and lead its research efforts, together with lectures by visiting speakers from Houston, London, Arizona, and Zurich. Dr. Larner

“We have potentially a highly game-changing technology that will replace many therapies,” said James M. Larner, MD, from UVA, who opened the meeting and presented an overview of the research plans, highlighting the benefits of having a fully dedicated center. Jacob Vortman, PhD, representing InSightec, manufacturer of focused ultrasound equipment, discussed the past and future evolution of the technology. He applauded the environment that UVA has created in order to be at the forefront of research. “This is a call to everyone to use this technology to the maximum extent,” Dr Vortman said. Speaking on current and future applications for focused ultrasound, Wladislaw Gedroyc, MD, from St Mary’s Hospital in London, presented clinical trial results and interesting cases that included treatment of liver cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

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Philips Healthcare CEO joins Foundation Board of Directors

The Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation is delighted to announce the election of Steve Rusckowski to its Board of Directors. Mr. Rusckowski became the executive vice president and chief executive officer of Philips Healthcare in November, 2006, and has been a member of the Philips Board of Management since April 2007. He was previously CEO of the Imaging Systems business group of Philips Healthcare.

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Introducing the Council of the Foundation

The Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation (FUSF) has recently formed a Council, comprised of a leadership group of advisors and advocates for the Foundation. It works closely with the Chairman of the FUSF Board and the FUSF Board members.

The Council’s mission is, simply, to advise and assist the FUSF. Specific roles include offering counsel, serving as advocates, organizing cultivation events, and helping to advance the FUSF’s mission of raising funds and public awareness.

The Council is led by Co-Chairmen, Dorothy Batten, Charlottesville, and Charles H. Seilheimer, Jr.,Orange. Its members are a small and select group of supporters who have been identified and recruited by the FUSF Board and the Council Co-Chairmen. Council participants will receive periodic briefings and mailings, and will be invited to attend major conferences, special events and recognition opportunities, as well as select Board meetings.

The Council meets, as needed, on call of the Co-Chairmen.

The Founding Council is now being formed. Participants are Charter Members of the FUSF Council.  The common bond is enthusiasm for the Foundation and its mission.

The founding members thus far are John B. Adams, Jr., The Plains; Jane P. Batten, Virginia Beach; Edgar M. Bronfman, Sr., New York; Thomas N. & Nancy J. Chewning, Richmond; Cecilia S. Howell, Fredericksburg; Paula F. Newcomb, Charlottesville; Mary Lou Seilheimer, Orange; Alice H. Siegel, Richmond.

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Foundation Brain Program gains technical director

The Foundation has recruited John W. Snell, PhD, as technical director for its Brain Program, completing the necessary infrastructure for carrying out both the clinical and technical aims of this strategic initiative. Dr. Snell brings a depth of experience in radiation oncology, radiosurgery, medical image analysis, surgical planning, and intra-operative navigation. With the addition of these skills, the Foundation is poised to make significant strides in its endeavor to accelerate the adoption of MRgFUS for the treatment of neurological disorders. The recruitment of Dr. Snell was made possible by the generous donation of a $1 million gift to the FUSF Brain Program by an anonymous donor.

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Research and Fellowship funding updates

Following a meeting of the Program Funding Committee on November 2, 2009, the following research and fellowship proposals were funded by the Foundation:

Research Awards:

  • “Induction of an immune response to breast cancer with magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound tumor ablation in a mouse model” – Peter Eby, MD, University of Washington ($100,000 for one year)
  • “MRI-guided localized delivery of chemotherapy using temperature-sensitive liposomes and high intensity focused ultrasound” – Tyrone Porter, PhD, Boston University ($100,000 for one year)


  • Alyson McIntosh, MD (Radiation Oncology)
    Mentors: Drs. James Larner, David Brenin, Paul Read, & Richard Price
    Site: University of Virginia
    Funding Period: July 2010 – June 2011
    Award: $100,000
  • Mark Sedrak, MD (Neurosurgery)
    Mentor: Dr. Ferenc Jolesz
    Site: Brigham and Women’s Hospital
    Funding Period: August 2010 – July 2011
    Award: $100,000
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Updated research funding sources

Attention researchers! We have posted several new research funding sources this past month including:

  • NIH Welcomes Proposals for 2010: NIH Director’s Transformative Research Projects Program
  • Image-Guided Drug Delivery in Cancer (R01)
  • Notice of Intent to Publish a Request for Applications for NIBIB Quantum Projects: Implementation Phase II (U01)
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ISTU showcases focused ultrasound advancements

The 9th Annual International Society of Therapeutic Ultrasound (ISTU) met recently in Aix en Provence, France and featured 128 speakers, dozens of technical posters, and brought together hundreds of experts in the field of focused ultrasound research.  The meeting, sponsored in part by the FUS Foundation, is the premier yearly conference highlighting the engineering and technical work done to allow focused ultrasound to treat a myriad of medical conditions.  Particularly exciting was the number of young and talented investigators that are leading the wave of new advances and applications. Also exciting was the large presence of equipment manufacturers showcasing their latest advancements including Philips, InSightec, Siemens, Haifu, Supersonic Imagine, and Profound Medical.

Featured prominently at the meeting was the more established use of focused ultrasound in heating targeted areas of the body to destroy diseased tissue and the conference included the latest advances in using the technology to treat uterine fibroids, prostate cancer, breast cancer, brain tumors, and other diseases. One of the tumor types receiving particular attention this conference were liver tumors which require special techniques to pass the ultrasound beams through the rib cage and visualize and track the liver while in motion due to the patient’s respiration. In addition to the use of focused ultrasound to ablate diseased tissue non-invasively, there was more emphasis than ever on the non-thermal applications of focused ultrasound in areas such as targeted drug delivery and the disruption of clots found in stroke patients.

Also, see our brief report on the Third Autumn School of Focused Ultrasound here

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First human trials for MRI-guided trans-urethral ultrasound technique for prostate cancer:  Profound Medical Inc.

The first human proof-of-concept study has begun at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Canada.

Supported by an independent research grant, research scientists at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, led by Chief of Urology, Dr Laurence Klotz, MD, have successfully begun the first human, proof-of-concept study for treating prostate cancer using their novel MRI-guided, trans-urethral ultrasound technique.

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InSightec, University of Dundee, and CapsuTech establish “Nanoporation” project

A new research initiative at the University of Dundee in Scotland aims to find ways of delivering drugs directly to cancer cells. The Nanoporation project is a research partnership between the University of Dundee and two medical companies, InSightec and CapsuTech.  InSightec is contributing focused ultrasound equipment and expertise, while CapsuTech will contribute the drug formulation and delivery expertise.

A key property of focused ultrasound is that it allows drugs and small particles to move from blood vessels into cancer cells, where they deliver a therapeutic agent. This “payload” concept can be developed into a very fine-tuned drug-delivery approach due to the precise targeting that is possible with focused ultrasound.

The Dundee Group, centered at the Institute for Medical Science and Technology (IMSaT), will be led by Prof. Andreas Melzer and Prof. Sir Alfred Cuschieri.

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