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Treatments Spotlighted at FUS Symposium Could Benefit Millions


Millions could benefit from new, noninvasive treatments

spotlighted at 2nd International MR-guided Focused Ultrasound Symposium

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (Oct. 5, 2010) – The Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation is hosting the 2nd International Symposium on MR-guided Focused Ultrasound in Chantilly, Virginia from October 17-20. Leading researchers and clinicians from around the world will gather at the three-day scientific conference to present and discuss the latest advancements in one of the most revolutionary and promising areas of therapeutic medicine.

“MR-guided focused ultrasound combines the visual precision of magnetic resonance imaging with the capabilities of focused ultrasound to noninvasively destroy tumors and other tissue abnormalities and to dissolve blood clots.” says Joy Polefrone, Ph.D., scientific committee secretary for the symposium. “It is also being investigated as a replacement for radiation therapy and as a platform for targeted drug delivery, which is a form of personalized medicine that could drastically improve the effectiveness, and reduce the toxic side effects, of chemotherapy and similar treatments.”

For patients, advances in the field of MR-guided focused ultrasound are expected to result in new, highly precise noninvasive procedures that improve survival and quality of life. “Treatments that now involve hospital stays, long recovery times and debilitating side effects could be replaced by outpatient therapies with rapid recovery times and few, if any, side effects,” Polefrone explains.

MR-guided focused ultrasound is now used worldwide to treat uterine fibroids. Outside the U.S., it is also an approved treatment for pain associated with metastatic bone cancer. Research activities are currently underway in a wide range of other disorders. Advancements in the following areas will be spotlighted at the symposium:

Emerging patient treatments

Prostate cancer – Safe, effective and highly-precise outpatient treatments that preserve patient potency and continence are primary aims of new, noninvasive MR-guided focused ultrasound therapies for this highly prevalent disease. Several symposium presentations and posters will describe results of early-stage human clinical trials that are evaluating two different approaches. The first, a transurethral device, has treated patients in a Canadian pilot study. The second, a transrectal device, is now treating patients at medical centers in Russia and Singapore.

Breast cancer – Could MR-guided focused ultrasound serve as an excisionless replacement for lumpectomy in treating early breast cancer patients? Japanese researcher, Hidemi Furusawa, M.D., believes that it has such potential. As evidence, he will share the results of a 57-patient study in which the new, noninvasive technology was used as a breast conserving treatment.

Facet joint pain – Low back pain that originates in the facet joints is a major clinical problem, causing pain and immobility, especially in the elderly. Patients who need more than the short-term relief provided by physical therapy, medications and therapeutic facet injections can undergo radiofrequency rhizotomy, a noninvasive surgical procedure that uses heat to destroy nerve endings. Researchers in the United Kingdom and Japan are now investigating if MR-guided focused ultrasound is a more effective approach to facet joint ablation. During the symposium, they will report initial patient treatment results.

Essential tremor – The field of MR-guided focused ultrasound was ignited last year by news that Swiss researchers had successfully used the noninvasive technology to treat patients in an area of the body most difficult to access – the brain. The landmark study has paved the way for clinical trials addressing a broad spectrum of brain disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, epilepsy, brain tumors, and stroke. In addition to providing long-term follow-up data for the Swiss study, the symposium will offer a preview of the first follow-on patient study: a multicenter clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of MR-guided focused ultrasound in treating medically-refractory essential tremor. The new study will be a precursor to treating Parkinson’s disease.

Ground-breaking research

Blood-brain barrier disruption – The impermeability of the blood brain barrier (BBB) has made pharmacological treatment of brain disorders a daunting, if not impossible, task. That may soon change, thanks to the work of Nathan McDannold, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. At the symposium, they will report preliminary findings of a preclinical safety study in which localized, transient disruption of the BBB was achieved in using bursts of MR-guided focused ultrasound and microbubbles. They will also discuss results of another preclinical study in which the same approach was used to deliver chemotherapy across the BBB to tumors associated with metastatic breast cancer.

Ischemic Stroke – Clot-busting drugs like tPA may no longer be necessary if the research being performed by Thilo Hoelscher, M.D. of the University of California, San Diego proves successful. He will report first results of an in vivo study using transcranial MR-guided focused ultrasound to noninvasively break up (“lyse”) stroke-causing blood clots and restore blood flow in the brain.

Stem cell activation – To be effective, therapeutic stem cells must home in on target tissue, much like moths to a flame. However, existing pathologies prevent most target tissue from releasing enough chemo-attractants to draw in stem cells, thus limiting treatment success. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health will describe how they have used pulsed focused ultrasound to generate local release of chemo-attractants, potentially increasing the homing instincts of bone marrow stromal cells.

Polefrone says the symposium will also feature leading edge research related to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), pancreatic and liver cancer, bone tumors, uterine fibroids, targeted drug delivery and various aspects of MR-guided focused ultrasound technology.

Program details, reporter inquiries

To view the complete symposium program, click here.  To view the list of abstracts included in the October 19 poster session, click here. Reporters interested in attending the symposium should contact the Foundation’s Director of Communications, Ellen C. McKenna.

About the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation

Founded in 2006 and based in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation is dedicated to accelerating research and development of patient treatments using one of today’s most revolutionary and promising medical technologies: noninvasive Magnetic Resonance-guided Focused Ultrasound (FUS). The Foundation’s work is motivated by the belief that FUS treatments could become the ultimate in minimally invasive surgery, serve as a viable alternative to radiation therapy and offer a new platform for precise drug delivery – uses that could alleviate suffering, save lives and quicken recovery times for millions of patients worldwide.

By promoting communication, collaboration and coordination, the Foundation has become a vital nexus for researchers, clinicians, manufacturers, philanthropists and other stakeholders in the FUS arena. The Foundation is funding translational and clinical research, providing fellowships for training physicians and scientists, hosting symposia and workshops, maintaining online informational resources and establishing Focused Ultrasound Centers of Excellence. Complete information about the Foundation and its work can be found at