Foundation Event Raises Awareness of Focused Ultrasound for Brain Disorders


Key Points

  • The Foundation hosted a local awareness event for supporters and friends in the community.
  • Presentations covered current research for brain tumors, psychiatric conditions, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

On June 8, the Foundation hosted a local awareness event in Charlottesville, Virginia, to educate and raise awareness about focused ultrasound, with a particular spotlight on its impact on brain conditions.

The event convened members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, Council, and staff, as well as focused ultrasound researchers, donors, and community members. In all, more than 100 people were in attendance.

The program began with a welcome by Foundation Chairman, Neal F. Kassell, MD, who shared a brief overview of the state of the field of focused ultrasound research.

Lauren Powlovich, MD, the Foundation’s Associate Chief Medical Officer, then presented the current research in focused ultrasound for brain tumors. She discussed ongoing work for both benign and malignant tumors and addressed where focused ultrasound could make the biggest impact – for deadly, hard-to-treat tumors like glioblastoma (GBM) and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). She also reviewed how focused ultrasound could be combined with other therapies to improve their efficacy.

Rees Cosgrove, MD, director of epilepsy and functional neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, then addressed the state of research of focused ultrasound for psychiatric disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and treatment-resistant depression (TRD). He began by describing the symptoms of each condition and traditional therapies, including surgical interventions, which are considered a last resort. He shared the story of a 24-year-old patient who suffered from severe OCD and TRD who was able to overcome his disease following gamma knife treatment. Dr. Cosgrove then addressed the advantages that focused ultrasound has over gamma knife therapy and how focused ultrasound could play a role in treating these patients. 

Finally, Paul Fishman, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, pharmacology, and neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, addressed two common degenerative conditions – Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD). He explained the history of treating PD, compared traditional treatments to focused ultrasound, and outlined the different areas in the brain that focused ultrasound researchers are targeting to treat patients with PD. For AD, Dr. Fishman discussed how focused ultrasound–induced blood-brain barrier opening – alone or in combination with drug therapies – might hold the answer to the devastating disease.

The program closed with a lively Q&A session.

“These events are invaluable to the Foundation’s mission of raising awareness of focused ultrasound,” said Dr. Kassell. “It is important to update our friends and supporters on the latest breakthroughs and bring them together with the experts in the field who are pioneering this research. We hope everyone left with a sense that the field is expanding rapidly in really meaningful areas that will impact patients’ lives.”