New Trial of Focused Ultrasound in Glioblastoma: Opening the Blood-Brain Barrier for Chemotherapy


GBM illustrationThe first patient has been treated in a US multicenter clinical trial evaluating the safety of using focused ultrasound to enhance the delivery of chemotherapy.

This 20-patient clinical trial is using Insightec’s Exablate Neuro device to temporarily and reversibly open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in glioblastoma (GBM) patients undergoing standard chemotherapy treatment.

The BBB is a protective layer of tightly joined cells that lines the blood vessels in the brain and prevents harmful substances, such as toxins and infectious agents, from diffusing into the surrounding brain tissue. It can also prevent therapeutic agents from getting into the brain, which is why research has centered on using focused ultrasound to safely and temporarily disrupt this barrier.

Researchers hope that opening the blood-brain barrier will allow chemotherapy to enter the brain at the tumor site in higher concentrations than would normally occur.

“Most chemotherapies do not make it into the brain,” said Graeme Woodworth, MD, the neurosurgeon leading the trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “In the future, we’re hoping we can provide more optimized drugs a way to get in. We envision we will be able to use this system for other drug delivery applications in the brain in the future.”

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, Richard Miller was the first person to take part in this ground-breaking trial at the University of Maryland. Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the University of Virginia are also actively enrolling patients.

“Focused ultrasound appears to have the ability to open a path allowing drugs to be directly delivered to the brain tumor,” said Jason Sheehan, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Virginia and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Neuro-Oncology. “This approach may in a minimally invasive fashion overcome the protective barrier that has long constrained brain tumor treatment effectiveness.”

“This very important trial is the next critical step in the path to developing a new approach using focused ultrasound for improving the quality and longevity of life in patients with glioblastoma by enhancing the delivery and effectiveness of chemotherapy,” said Focused Ultrasound Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD. The Foundation is funding part of this clinical trial.

Patients who are interested in learning more about this trial should contact:

University of Maryland Medical Center
Brain Tumor Treatment and Research Center
Charlene Aldrich

Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Leah Marie Seften

James Grant

University of Virginia
Matthew Patterson