Seattle Center To Be a Major Force in Focused Ultrasound Brain Studies


First patient trial at Swedish Medical Center will be for essential tremor

One of the most prestigious neuroscience centers in the world is gearing up to become a major clinical force in MR-guided focused ultrasound brain research. Swedish Neuroscience Institute (SNI) at the Cherry Hill campus of Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, USA will soon treat patients with essential tremor as part of  an upcoming Phase III multicenter randomized trial and is considering studies for epilepsy, Parkinsonian tremor, metastatic tumors and intracerebral hemorrhage.

SNI will also explore new brain applications. “We hope to develop a number of treatments using focused ultrasound that offer patients noninvasive, well tolerated therapeutic alternatives for a variety of conditions,” says David W. Newell, MD, Chief of Neuroscience at SNI and Executive Sponsor of the focused ultrasound project.

smSeattle1To help expand SNI’s research activities, Stephen Monteith, MD will join its staff July 1, 2013 to continue his investigations of new applications using cadaver studies with focused ultrasound and spearhead additional clinical trials.

Focused ultrasound is a good fit for SNI, says Newell. “We envision the Swedish Neuroscience Institute being in the forefront of clinical treatments and the introduction of advanced technologies, as well as in a leadership role in translational research in the neurosciences. We believe that focused ultrasound represents a big advance in the way that patients are treated for a number of different conditions of the nervous system,” he notes.

To get staff and patients excited about focused ultrasound, SNI has sent out announcements and offered educational seminars and lectures regarding the potential brain applications of the technology.

In May 2012, Focused Ultrasound Foundation Chairman Neal Kassell, MD joined in the promotional activities by presenting the Spencer Lecture at SNI’s 6th Annual Cerebrovascular Symposium. (View a video of his talk, Transcranial Ultrasound Treatment Applications.)

smSeattle2“The launch of the focused ultrasound project at SNI is as a very exciting and important development,” says Kassell. “SNI has a stellar reputation, a world-class staff and serves a large patient population – all factors that will help establish it as a leading site for MR-guided focused ultrasound brain treatments.”

Essential tremor expertise

According to Newell, SNI is already the most experienced and busiest site in the world in treating patients with essential tremor at its Gamma Knife facility, which is under the direction of Ron Young, MD.

“We also have an active Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) program and medical movement disorders program for treating these patients,” Newell says. “We believe that there will be a large patient population that will be interested in pursuing focused ultrasound treatment for this condition.”

Ryder Gwinn, MD will be the neurosurgical Principal Investigator for the essential tremor study.

Therapeutic Ultrasound Center

smSeattle3Funding from the Swedish Foundation and a generous gift from David Sabey and Sabey Corporation enabled SNI to purchase an InSightec ExAblate Neuro system, which is installed in its Radiology Department. Other departments participating in the focused ultrasound project are Neurosurgery and Neurology.

Newell and Monteith will oversee coordination of the research and clinical treatment programs as well as hospital planning and development of the Therapeutic Ultrasound Center. In addition to focused ultrasound research, the center will perform studies using other ultrasound treatment modalities, including the recently started Clotbust ER study, using ultrasound for clot lysis in acute stroke, and catheter-delivered ultrasound for the treatment of intracranial hemorrhage.

Asked about implementation challenges, Newell says, “We anticipate that there will be a learning curve to initiate the treatments and some challenges regarding use of the scanner during times when there is a demand for imaging.”