Breast System Project Leads to International Collaborations on MR Thermometry for Liver and Brain Indications


As Dennis Parker, PhD and his colleagues at the University of Utah continue to refine and advance their new HIFU system for breast tumors, they have also joined forces with Swiss and French researchers to solve the technical problems of measuring temperature changes during focused ultrasound treatments.

In designing their system, the Utah team has come up against significant technical challenges. For example, they had to determine how to measure temperature changes in fatty tissues, adjust for motion-related errors and cover larger volumes at acceptable spatial and temporal resolution. Their quest for solutions led to a collaboration with University of Geneva researchers who are addressing similar problems in developing a HIFU system for liver tumors. The Foundation supported this collaboration through a $100,000 Research Award for a project entitled, “Robust MR thermometry for MRgHIFU in breast and liver.”

“This project gave us the opportunity to collaborate on self-referencing techniques and to transfer our temperature measurement methods to the University of Geneva,” Parker explains.

To advance the work on MR thermometry even further, the Utah team is working with French researchers from the Institut Langevin (ESPCI) and device maker SuperSonic Imagine. The collaboration also includes researchers at the University of Virginia, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the University of Toronto.

Funded by the Foundation’s Brain Program, this collaboration is developing techniques for monitoring volumetric temperature within and around the skull. As Brain Program Technical Director John Snell, PhD notes, “The ability to monitor temperature in the volumetric neighborhood around a target, or even the entire intracranial volume, is key to enhanced safety and the eventual application of transcranial MR-guided focused ultrasound to more complex indications.”

Snell adds, “Dennis Parker’s team is uniquely configured to tackle this problem, bringing personnel to deal with the various technical aspects of the project: coils, pulse sequence programming, HIFU simulation. Their partnership with Langevin also promises an ultimately practical implementation on a production brain clinical system and vibrant international collaboration.”

In addition to Focused Ultrasound Foundation funding, the Utah team now has a R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health for developing and ing temperature measurement techniques for whole brain thermometry. The grant is also enabling the development of upgraded MRI RF coils to improve the images on the SuperSonic system.

“We applied for the NIH grant right after getting assurance of the Foundation’s funding. That helped us in our application process, especially because our collaborators on the NIH grant met with us during the Foundation’s Brain Workshop and strongly endorsed our NIH proposal,” Parker explains. 

Written by Ellen C., McKenna