Investigator Profile: Joan Vidal-Jové, MD, PhD

Joan Vidal-Jové, MD, PhD

Now the Director of the Comprehensive Tumor Center at the Khuab Institute for Interventional Oncology in Barcelona, Dr. Joan Vidal-Jové has joined a center where he can dedicate more time to his patients and research.

Known for using focused ultrasound to treat pancreatic cancer, the Honorary President of the 7th International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound also served as a Principal Investigator for the recently successful HistoSonics THERESA study, an impressive clinical trial using histotripsy to treat liver cancer. Great advances have been made since Dr. Vidal-Jové’s last Investigator Profile in 2015, and much of this growth in the field of focused ultrasound can be credited to this amazing surgical oncologist.

Focused Ultrasound Work

When and how did you become interested in focused ultrasound?
In 2008, I realized that we could treat complex, advanced cancer patients with less invasive treatments. As a surgical oncologist, I became frustrated when the diagnostic tools revealed that gastrointestinal cancer patients were beyond surgical resection because of a late diagnosis. At that point, focused ultrasound appeared to be an excellent tool for obtaining a significant ablation of the primary tumor, and it looked especially promising for pancreatic cancer.

What are your areas of interest for focused ultrasound?
Pancreatic tumors, primary or metastatic liver tumors, and soft tissue tumors.

How will you be using focused ultrasound now that you are at your new institute?
I am committed at present with immuno-surgical approaches to treat pancreatic, liver, and soft tissue tumors. We are in a trial of histotripsy for liver tumors, and we are ready to initiate clinical studies with focused ultrasound and microbubbles for advanced malignancies.

Research Details

Tell us about your new research and treatment teams.
The Comprehensive Tumor Center has six clinicians that take care of all initiatives from a comprehensive, noninvasive approach. We also have an invaluable support and administrative staff that drives us in the best direction. Clinical procedures are done some in our Institution, some in a nearby University Hospital, the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, that holds the research labs, fellows, etc.

Who are your internal and external collaborators?

  • Dr. Manuela Velat is the Medical Director of the Institute and my closest collaborator. She leads the clinical activities with our comprehensive, noninvasive approach and allows me to dedicate more valuable time to research activities.


  • Dr. Xavier Serres from the Radiology Department of Vall d’Hebron University Hospital and Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR). We have created a group of research in our city: FUS Barcelona, that has ties with other Universities to increase synergies for research support and application to grants.
  • Histosonics, Inc. I have a close relationship with this company. They trusted me when they were going to start their clinical trials with Histotripsy, and from this close collaboration we were able to accomplish the first-in-human trial for liver tumors. Mike Blue, Josh King, and Joe Amaral are now leading the company, and I am enjoying our work together in the new multicentric European trial.
  • Eli Vlaisavljevich and his group at Virginia Tech, working in animal models of Histotripsy in cholangiocarcinomas and pancreatic cancer.

What are your planned focused ultrasound research initiatives (with specific focused ultrasound mechanisms)?

  • pancreatic cancer: histotripsy, microbubbles, low-intensity focused ultrasound, hyperthermia
  • liver cancer: histotripsy
  • soft tissue tumors: microbubbles, low-intensity focused ultrasound, hyperthermia
  • lung cancer: microbubbles, low-intensity focused ultrasound, hyperthermia

What is the goal of your research work?
Our goal is to make patients happier, extend their lives with comfortable treatments that boost their immunity and their capabilities of self-cure, and help them to address a more transcendental life. We strongly believe that taking care of patients takes full-time dedication; everything that matters to them should be taken into account, mental and spiritual needs included.

What are your funding sources?
Our funding comes from private donations, public grants, and collaboration with the medical devices industry.

What are your greatest achievements? Any major disappointments?
We have treated more than 200 patients with focused ultrasound and have increase survival in advanced pancreatic cancer patients. Our disappointments include a lack of support from some colleagues and the slow pace of time in obtaining funding for some research.

What do you see as impediments to your success?
I would say resistance to change and closed mentalities in institutions that could support our research.

Has the Focused Ultrasound Foundation played a role in your work?
The Foundation’s support has changed my life. Its way of walking by the side of researchers, clinicians, and patients during all of these years is outstanding. Neal Kassell and his group create constant and robust work that make you feel wanted. Tim Meakem and his support in pancreatic cancer initiatives has been of tremendous help in my case.

Clinical Details

How many patients have you treated?
I have used focused ultrasound to treat more than 200 patients that, in most cases, did not have any other treatment options.

Do you have a memorable clinical research story to share?
Yes, I want to mention a 12-year-old girl that I started to treat at the end of 2012. She had developed a middle gut ampuloma and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor with multiple liver metastasis. She had been through different combinations of noninvasive treatments, including hyperthermic and immune enhancements. We have been cytoreducing the primary tumor and treating the liver systemically. During this time, she has grown up and is living an almost normal life in school and with her family. She is now 20 and getting ready for a new ablation with focused ultrasound of her pancreatic tumor growth.

Looking Ahead

What comes next for you?
I plan to keep working. I am very excited about the focused ultrasound collaboration that we have organized as FUS Barcelona with Vall d’Hebron University Hospital. They have a dedicated group of interventional radiologists who are eager to work and develop focused ultrasound at their institution. And of course, histotripsy with Histosonics.

Is there anything else that you would like to add? Any advice for the next generation of researchers?
Be persistent: success never comes at first.

Key Publications

Vidal-Jové J; Perich E; Jaen A, Alvarez del Castillo M. Ultrasound guided high intensity focused ultrasound for malignant tumors: The Spanish experience of survival advantage in stage III and IV pancreatic cancer. Ultrason Sonochem 2015, May 27 pii: S1350-4177 (15)00155-8.

Vidal-Jové J; Perich E; Jaen A, Alvarez del Castillo M. Hyperthermic ablation by ultrasound-guided high intensity focused ultrasound (USgHIFU) plus systemic chemotherapy (SC) for locally advanced pancreatic cancer: the secret of longer survival. J Ther Ultrasound 2014, 2 (suppl 1) A6.

Vidal Jové J, García Bernal M, Perich E, Alvarez del Castillo M. Complete Responses alter Hyperthermic Ablation by Ultrasound Guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Plus Systemic Chemotherapy for Locally Advanced Pancreatic Cancer. Conference Papers in Medicine, Vol. 2013 art. ID 586769, 4 pages, Hindawi Publishing Corporation. May 2013.

Related Stories

Case Report: Histotripsy-Induced Abscopal Effect in Liver Tumors June 2020

Results of First-In-Human Focused Ultrasound Histotripsy Trial for Liver Cancer Presented February 2020

International Registry Launched for Focused Ultrasound in Pancreatic Cancer January 2020

Company Profile: The Reinvention of HistoSonics November 2019

Dr. Joan Vidal-Jové Named 2020 Symposium President September 2019

First Histotripsy Clinical Trial 2018-2019

Focused Ultrasound and Chronic Pain July 2019

Focused Ultrasound for Lung Tumors: From Impossible to Possible May 2019

Symposium Showcases Latest Advances in Noninvasive Therapy for Brain Disorders, Cancer, and Other Major Diseases October 2018

Global Experts Share Latest Advances at ISTU March 2016

Pancreatic Cancer Study Shows Potential Survival Benefit July 2015

Focused Ultrasound Symposium Showcases Latest in Clinical and Research Advances in Non-Invasive Therapy for Brain Disorders, Cancer and Other Diseases October 2014