University of Utah Awarded $2.5M from NCI to Develop Treatment for Breast Cancer


The National Cancer Institute has awarded Dennis Parker, PhD, and his team of researchers at the Utah Center for Advanced Imaging Research (part of the University of Utah School of Medicine) funding to further their work using focused ultrasound to treat breast cancer. After completing successful initial studies funded by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, the Utah group was able to secure this prestigious R01 award to continue this promising work.

The 5-year grant will develop and validate the technology to reach human studies as quickly as possible. The project, “Non-Invasive Image-Guided HIFU for Breast Cancer Therapy,” intends to provide completely non-invasive therapy of localized lesions in the breast by addressing the remaining limitations that keep FUS from achieving its potential to treat localized breast cancer. Project goals include:

  • developing patient-specific methods for focusing the ultrasound beam in breast tissue
  • developing efficient and safe methods to measure treatment temperature in breast tissue
  • demonstrating safe and effective tumor and treatment margin ablation
  • evaluating the above-developed techniques in vivo in humans

The innovations proposed in this project are critical for the safe, non-invasive treatment of breast cancer with FUS and will lay the foundation for a successful phase I clinical trial. This technology will provide a new treatment option for women with localized breast cancer. The University of Utah research group uses a breast-specific FUS system that they designed with Image Guided Therapy.

Other Institutions that are working on breast diseases include:

  • The Breastopia hospital in Japan is studying the use of FUS plus radiotherapy as a treatment for small breast cancer.
  • The University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands has a dedicated Philips system and is following a treat-and-resect protocol for a Phase I breast tumor ablation study. Recent data from this study were presented at the CIRSE meeting in Barcelona by Prof. Maurice van den Bosch and will also be presented at the Rome Symposium. 
  • A four-center study in Europe is using ultrasound-guided FUS to treat breast fibroadenoma.
  • InSightec is planning a US study soon.

We have covered previous Utah projects in an April 2012 FUSF Newsletter story and in a July 2010 story about Utah researcher Nick Todd. Read more about the Utah Center for Advanced Imaging Research on their website.