The Focused Ultrasound Foundation has joined forces with the Blood Profiling Atlas in Cancer (BloodPAC) – a nonprofit consortium dedicated to accelerating the development, validation, and clinical use of liquid biopsy assays – to explore focused ultrasound’s potential in this burgeoning field.
Similar to the Foundation, BloodPAC has an extensive collaborative infrastructure that enables sharing of information between stakeholders in academia, industry, and regulatory agencies. Several Foundation team members will join BloodPAC working groups – including those on the topics of reimbursement, sustainability, and patient context variables – and attend quarterly meetings.
Liquid biopsies are a cutting-edge tool for the future of cancer diagnosis and care. These tools collect and analyze blood or other non-solid biological tissues, such as cerebrospinal fluid. The assays identify and measure circulating cancer cells or pieces of nuclear material, such as DNA, from tumors to identify genetic and epigenetic changes without the need for a more invasive biopsy. The information could potentially be used to make an initial diagnosis, guide precision therapies, monitor treatment response, and provide longitudinal follow-up for possible recurrence.
Focused ultrasound could also be a useful tool in future liquid biopsy research. Preliminary studies have shown that focused ultrasound can be used to amplify the presence of biomarkers, making them easier to identify and measure in the bloodstream. Tumors in the brain present a unique challenge for the liquid biopsy techniques due to the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a protective layer of tightly joined cells that line the blood vessels in the brain preventing harmful substances from entering the brain. The BBB limits bidirectional flow of materials, meaning that many medications are unable to diffuse from the blood into a brain tumor. Conversely, this barrier also inhibits the movement of tumor markers into the bloodstream.
Numerous studies have confirmed that focused ultrasound can safely and reversibly open the BBB in a targeted area, and there are ongoing clinical trials using focused ultrasound to enhance the delivery of a variety of therapies across the BBB into brain tumors. Preclinical research has also shown that focused ultrasound-enhanced BBB opening can increase the yield of brain tumor biomarkers in the blood. Thus, focused ultrasound has now created a window of sorts into the brain which may be promising for detecting, characterizing, and directing targeted therapies for brain tumors and potentially a variety of other neurological diseases that have been “hidden” from the peripheral circulation.
“During our initial discussions with BloodPAC, it was clear that focused ultrasound technology has the potential to open many interesting research pathways for the field of liquid biopsy,” said Suzanne LeBlang, MD, the Foundation’s Director of Clinical Relationships. “There are many synergies between our organizations, and together we should be able to accomplish our mutual goals to rapidly harness the power of both technologies.”
“Our members are excited to welcome the Focused Ultrasound Foundation as our newest member,” said Lauren Leiman, Executive Director of BloodPAC. “We look forward to learning with the Foundation about the potential for focused ultrasound use concurrent with liquid biopsy platforms. BloodPAC prioritizes collaborating with all stakeholders in the liquid biopsy field to improve the outcomes of patients with cancer through existing and developing technologies.”