Society for Thermal Medicine Conference Summary – MR guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Stands Out


Founded in 1986 by researchers in the area of thermal therapy, the Society for Thermal Medicine has facilitated a forum for discussion of research for more than 20 years. The Society’s 2009 Annual Meeting was held in Tucson, Arizona, on April 3–7, with a program jam-packed with presentations on research topics that included Targeted Drug Delivery and Liposomes, Thermal Effects on the Immune System and the Tumor Microenvironment, and even a full session on MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound.

Targeted Drug Delivery is a research area the Foundation has consistently predicted will have tremendous potential when coupled with Focused Ultrasound. In fact, we recently funded a research project to support work by Katherine Ferrara’s group at the University of California at Davis that aims to create and validate clinically relevant ultrasound-enhanced drug delivery. One of Dr. Ferrara’s colleagues, Dustin Kruse, PhD, presented related work at STM, and we look forward to seeing continued success from Ferrara’s lab, aided by Foundation resources.

In addition, thermo-sensitive liposomes were the focus of multiple presentations. These included talks by Matthew Dreher of the NIH, and Ashley Manzoor of Duke University, which described their collaborative work on lysolipid-containing temperature-sensitive liposomes (LTSLs) coupled with an image-guided hyperthermia device. Dr. Dreher highlighted the fact that high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) can serve as an optimal complement to LSTLs when used in a pulsed mode that produces small elevations in temperature to between 40° and 42°C. This collaboration also includes work with industry partners Philips and the Celsion Corporation.

Although the benefits of hyperthermia in tumor therapy were first noted in the mid-1800s, when patients presenting with high fevers responded better to therapy, the technique did not gain wide attention until 1971 when A. Westra and W.C. Dewey published their studies of mammals. The ability to target and control temperature increase using hyperthermia – via either RF delivery or HIFU – enables targeted therapy as well as analysis of the tumor microenvironment and the immune response. Among the multiple research groups working in this area is the Repasky Laboratory at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Several talks were presented from the Repasky Lab, covering the role of temperature and heat shock proteins in lymphocyte and dendritic cell activation, and the manipulation of thermoregulation for enhanced delivery of cancer therapeutics.

The session devoted to MR-guided HIFU showcased work from key researchers in Focused Ultrasound including Nathan McDannold of Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Mark Hurwitz of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Sham Sokka of Philips, and Robert Staruch of the University of Toronto. More can be learned about each talk in our recent Blog Posting by Eben Alexander, in which he summarizes each of these presentations along with several others from the 2009 STM Annual Meeting.

Overall, the meeting was replete with incredible speakers, solid data, and an engaged and captivated audience eager to ask questions and participate in discussions about each research area. With Dr. Repasky taking the helm this coming year as new President of the Society, we anticipate another exceptional meeting. And with advances in Focused Ultrasound, we hope to welcome even more Focused Ultrasound researchers and presentations to next year’s meeting.