Investigator Profile: Q&A with Cyril Lafon, PhD


Cyril Lafon, PhD, joins the Foundation as the 2016-2017 Richard Merkin Visiting Fellow. Dr. Lafon is the Director of LabTAU, a research laboratory of INSERM – the French National Institutes of Health – located in Lyon. He was selected based on his innovative ideas and proven track record in developing focused ultrasound devices for patient use. We sat down with Cyril to discuss how he became interested in focused ultrasound and his work.

Cyril Lafon

Q. When and how did you get interested in FUS?
I studied medical physics when I was in Montreal. When I went back to France, I was looking for a program in this area and was accepted in the graduate program at the University of Lyon. Then I was recruited by Dominique Cathignol at LabTAU while I was looking for an internship in radiotherapy.

Q. What are your areas of interest in FUS?
Pretty much everything! The fun thing with focused ultrasound is that each application requires the design of a particular device and a particular procedure.

Q. What mechanisms and clinical indications do you study?
I’m currently interested in three applications: treating arrhythmia, unseeded cavitation for sonoporation and cellular transfection, and BBB opening for treating brain tumors.

Q. What is the goal of your work?
My primary drive is always to propose new devices for the benefit of the patients.

Q. What are your funding sources?
The National Research Agency (ANR), The Focused Ultrasound Foundation, and private companies (Carthera and EDAP).

Lafon Infographic 400

Q. Who are your team members?
I work closely with several principal investigators at INSERM, including Jean-Yves Chapelon and Jean-Louis Mestas. I currently supervise three PhD students: Maxime Lafond (cavitation-induced drug delivery), Paul Greillier (cardiac ablation), and Gilles Thomas (lithotripsy).

Q. Who are your internal and external collaborators?
Medical doctors Alexandre Carpentier (neurosurgeon in Paris, APHP), Philippe Chevalier and Francis Bessière (Cardiologists in Lyon, HCL), and Charles Dumontet (Oncologist in Lyon, HCL).

Q. What are your grea achievements? Any major disappointments?
The EyeTechCare and Carthera projects are great successes. With EyeTechCare, we designed a device for treating glaucoma and used it for a few thousand patients. Precisely ablating the ciliary bodies with focused ultrasound causes a significant decrease in intraocular pressure for patients with refractory glaucoma. The Sonocloud device that I helped design with Carthera was the first successful ultrasound device ed for opening the BBB in humans.

I was disappointed that I could not find an industrial partner for promoting the endoscopic devices for treating cancers in the bile duct that I designed during my PhD, but I’m happy to see that a similar technology is now proposed for treating prostate cancer.
Q. What is on your research wish list?
I’d like to see the Carthera device successfully used for treating Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is a major challenge for our society.

Q. Did the Foundation play a role in your work?
The Foundation supports my work in treating arrhythmia.

Q. What will happen with your transesophageal cardiac ablation project while you are in the US?
My PhD student Paul Greillier will keep running the experiments (study supported by the FUSF). He will also continue modeling these treatments on beating hearts, and I will supervise him remotely.

Q. Have you treated any patients? If so, how many?
Although my role is limited to the design of the device, I’ve been involved in the treatment of 20 patients with the ultrasonic endoscope during my PhD (1997-1999), more than a thousand with EyeOp1 from EyeTechCare, and 20 with the Sonocloud made by Carthera. I’m less involved in the clinical trials than in the optimization of the design after clinical evaluation.

Past Coverage
Webinar: Translational Research toward Conformal Treatments for Prostate and Brain November 5, 2015
1st Quarter 2015 Foundation Research Award March 2015

Key FUS Publications
Carpentier A, Canney M, Vignot A, et al. First-in-man blood-brain barrier disruption by pulsed ultrasound. Sci Transl Med 2016 Jun 15;8(343):343re2.

Bessiere F, N’djin WA, Colas EC, et al. Ultrasound-Guided Transesophageal High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Cardiac Ablation in a Beating Heart: A Pilot Feasibility Study in Pigs. Ultrasound Med Biol 2016 Aug; 42(8):1848-61.

Mestas JL, Fowler RA, Evjen TJ, et al. Therapeutic efficacy of the combination of doxorubicin-loaded liposomes with inertial cavitation generated by confocal ultrasound in AT2 Dunning rat tumour model. J Drug Target 2014 Sep; 22(8):688-97.

Aptel F, Charrel T, Lafon C, et al. Miniaturized high-intensity focused ultrasound device in patients with glaucoma: a clinical pilot study. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2011 Nov 11; 52(12):8747-53.

Charrel T, Aptel F, Birer A, et al. Development of a miniaturized HIFU device for glaucoma treatment with conformal coagulation of the ciliary bodies. Ultrasound Med Biol 2011 May; 37(5):742-54.

Prat F, Lafon C, Melodelima D, et al. Endoscopic treatment of cholangiocarcinoma and carcinoma of the duodenal papilla by intraductal high-intensity US: Results of a pilot study. Gastroin Endosc 2002; 56(6):909-915.

Lafon C, Chapelon JY, Prat F, et al. Design and preliminary results of an ultrasound applicator for interstitial thermal coagulation. Ultrasound Med Biol 1998, 24 (1):113-122.