Speakers from Arizona to Zurich Join in Research Symposium to Mark Opening of Focused Ultrasound Center at UVA


To celebrate the opening of UVA’s new Focused Ultrasound Center, an international array of speakers joined in a research symposium on September 14. The symposium featured presentations from the UVA team that will run the center and lead its research efforts, together with lectures by visiting speakers from Houston, London, Arizona, and Zurich.

“We have potentially a highly game-changing technology that will replace many therapies,” said James M. Larner, MD,from UVA, who opened the meeting and presented an overview of the research plans, highlighting the benefits of having a fully dedicated center. Jacob Vortman, PhD,representing InSightec, manufacturer of focused ultrasound equipment, discussed the past and future evolution of the technology. He applauded the environment that UVA has created in order to be at the forefront of research. “This is a call to everyone to use this technology to the maximum extent,” Dr Vortman said. Speaking on current and future applications for focused ultrasound, Wladislaw Gedroyc, MD,from St Mary’s Hospital in London,presented clinical trial results and interesting cases that included treatment of liver cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

Ernst Martin-Fiori, MD, from the University of Zurich, presented his group’s groundbreaking work using focused ultrasound as a non-invasive neurosurgical tool. Future research will investigate focused ultrasound treatment in essential tremor, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. Discussing reversible applications of focused ultrasound for brain disorders, William J. Tyler, PhD,from the University of Arizona, presented research findings on neuromodulation, which has potential for treating disorders such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease and for the accurate diagnosis of brain disorders.

Further uses of focused ultrasound were described by King Li, MD,from Houston.  Dr. Li, one of the world’s leading experts in targeted drug delivery, described research into ways that focused ultrasound can be used to activate drugs only at the location where they are needed, sparing the rest of the body from side effects. Also talking about drug delivery with focused ultrasound, John A Hossack, PhD, from UVA, described research on intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) guidance of drug and gene delivery. The procedure permits the use of highly potent drugs that could be too toxic to use systemically. Richard Price, PhD, from UVA, reported work on targeted drug delivery and ablation of brain tumors with focused ultrasound and microbubble technology. This work was initially funded by the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation and has since received further funding from other sources.

Jason Sheehan, MD, PhD, outlined plans for the UVA Focused Ultrasound Center. “This is a differentiating technology for the University of Virginia,” said Dr. Sheehan. “We can be on the cutting edge of the curve – with the tremendous outpouring of support at UVA and collaborative efforts with some of the speakers here at this symposium,” he stated.

Closing the symposium, Alan Matsumoto, MD, from UVA, presented an extensive review of the uses of MRgFUS in treating uterine fibroids, and pointed to ongoing clinical trials involving bone metastases, uterine fibroids (including fertility), brain tumors, neuropathic pain, and breast tumors. Clinical trials are planned for prostate tumors, liver tumors, Parkinson’s disease, and essential tremor, and even broader areas are being considered for pre-clinical research.

Note: please see the detailed meeting report for speaker titles.