Research Awards Update: Nine Preclinical Projects Initiated in the Second Half of 2021


Key Points

  • The Foundation’s Research Awards Program initiated nine preclinical studies in the second half of 2021.
  • Funded projects are addressing mental disorders, brain tumors, pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma, pancreatic cancer, and two veterinary cancer applications.
  • Learn more about our funded projects and how to apply for a research award.

The Foundation’s Research Awards Program initiated nine new preclinical studies in the second half of 2021. The breadth and depth of ongoing focused ultrasound research continue to grow. Brain projects are exploring the use of focused ultrasound to treat mental disorders and brain tumors. A new brain technical study is seeking to improve transcranial treatments. Cancer awards are directed toward immunotherapy for pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma and pancreatic cancer, and another project is evaluating sonodynamic therapy for pancreatic cancer. In the veterinary program, two cancer trials are underway for dogs and cats.

Each newly funded and initiated project is listed below by program track.

Brain General and Technical

Durable Modulation of Deep Brain Circuits for the Treatment of Mental Disorders led by Jan Kubanek, PhD, at the University of Utah. This project will study sustained ultrasound stimulation of the amygdala/subgenual cingulate cortex to relieve anxiety and depression for days, not hours, as a possible chronic, nonablative treatment.

Symptom Mapping for Focused Ultrasound Thalamotomy Assessment and Planning
led by Charles Guttmann, MD, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University. This study seeks to publish a novel method for subthalamic segmentation to improve focused ultrasound targeting in patients with essential tremor who are treated with thalamotomy.

Gene Therapy for Brain Tumors

Ultrasound-Guided Gene Delivery to Brain Tumors led by Beata Chertok, PhD, at the University of Virginia. This project is using focused ultrasound and specially engineered nanoparticles to improve gene-based immunotherapy for brain tumors.

Cancer Immunotherapy*

Treating Pediatric Rhabdomyosarcoma Using High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Histotripsy or Ablation in Combination with Immunotherapy led by Caitlin Tydings, MD, at Children’s National Hospital. This study is evaluating the use of focused ultrasound plus immunotherapy to treat a mouse model of pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma.

Multimodal Analysis of Immune Response Post-Focused Ultrasound in Two Tumor Models led by Brett Fite, PhD, Zhen Xu, PhD, Katherine Ferrara, PhD, and Tatiana Khoklova, PhD, at Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington. This collaborative group seeks to determine whether boiling histotripsy, cavitational histotripsy, or thermal ablation produces a stronger immune response in a model of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer

Cavitation-Related Sonodynamic Therapy Combined with NRF-2 Inhibition to Improve Pancreatic Cancer Response to Chemotherapy Via Stromal Disruption and Oxydative Stress Modulation led by Jean-Louis Mestas, PhD, and Frederic Prat, MD, PhD, at the LabTAU Focused Ultrasound Center of Excellence. This project seeks to determine whether sonodynamic therapy might be an effective treatment for pancreatic cancer.


Ultrasound Microbubble—Delivered, MicroRNA-Mediated Immunomodulation for Liver Malignancy Therapy in Veterinary Clinical Practice led by Ramasamy Paulmurugan, PhD, at Stanford University. This study will used focused ultrasound plus microbubbles to deliver gene therapy to dogs with liver tumors.

Focused Ultrasound for Feline Sarcomas led by Shawna Klahn, DVM, DACVIM, at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. This comparative trial will investigate both histotripsy and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for the treatment of feline sarcomas.

General Technical

Open Source MR Thermometry Pipeline for the Siemens MRI Platform led by graduate research assistant Craig Macsemchuk, Engineer In Training at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. Funded as part of the Foundation’s Scholars Program, the project is supporting the technical implementation of treatment software developed by Samuel Pichardo, PhD, at the University of Calgary.

How to Apply

Research funding applications – whether for preclinical projects or for clinical trials – are driven by a two-step, peer-reviewed application process that is initiated online by the investigator. The process involves the following steps:

Research Abstract (Step 1): Submit a one-page research abstract. These are accepted on a rolling basis and allow the Foundation’s scientific team an opportunity to determine whether the proposal topic falls under the umbrella of image-guided focused ultrasound and to ensure that full research proposals are only invited for projects that may be funded. Foundation staff meet on a biweekly schedule to review all research abstracts.|

Full Research Proposal (Step 2): If the research abstract is accepted, the investigator will be invited to submit a full award application. The required materials for each type of application are also listed on the Foundation’s website.
Peer Review: Full Proposals are sent for external peer review.

Funding Decisions: After peer review, Foundation staff and, in some cases, a subset of our Board of Directors, meet to discuss reviewer comments and make a funding decision. The investigator is then notified whether the proposal has been funded, rejected, or invited for revision. In general, investigators from whom revisions are requested will have only one opportunity to address reviewer comments before a final decision (fund or reject) is made.

Acceptance and Funding: Upon notification of having been selected for an award, the assigned Foundation program officer will work with the investigator and his or her institution to finalize a funding agreement.

All application materials should be submitted via the Foundation’s Editorial Manger online portal.

*The Foundation is currently seeking to fund cancer immunotherapy projects that address focused ultrasound’s effects on the tumor vasculature or partial versus total tumor ablation outcomes. Learn More >