“It is the Foundation’s belief that focused ultrasound has significant untapped potential in the field of cancer immunotherapy,” said Jessica Foley, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer. "We are dedicated to advancing this work to develop more effective therapies for patients living with melanoma and other types of cancer."
Although significant advances have been made in treating melanoma with immunotherapy, brain metastases remain very difficult to treat. This hurdle is related to the relationship between the brain, the tumor metastases, and an immune system that limits immune cell and antibody access.
“Immunotherapy has shown significant promise for some patients with advanced melanoma, and we hope to expand our understanding and use of immunotherapy to impact all patients – including those with cancer that has spread to the brain,” says Louise Perkins, PhD, Chief Science Officer at MRA.
Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, CEO and Director of Scientific Affairs at CRI, added, “Cutting-edge investigation centering on focused ultrasound in combination with immunotherapy is an innovative approach, which, we hope, will ultimately benefit patients with any type of cancer that has spread to the brain.”
University of Virginia immunologist Timothy Bullock, PhD, Biomedical Engineering Professor Richard Price, PhD, and Medical Physicist, G. Wilson Miller, PhD, are teaming together to study the use of focused ultrasound in conjunction with microbubbles to increase the natural immune response to tumors in the brain.
Our collaboration with the Melanoma Research Alliance, Cancer Research Institute, and UVA is made possible by contributions from visionary donors Robert and Molly Hardie. The Hardies have been loyal supporters of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, and we are grateful for their passion and commitment. “All too often many of these early stage innovative studies do not get funded, so we are proud to support the Foundation and the important work of all the partners,” says Robert Hardie.
Dr. Aubry also recorded a presentation on the historical development of focused ultrasound to access and treat the brain. WATCH NOW
Focused Ultrasound Neuromodulation Webinar
Jean-Francois Aubry, PhD, Research Director at Institut Langevin in Paris and President of the International Society for Therapeutic Ultrasound, recently visited the Foundation to present a webinar on transient neuromodulation. He reviewed the various effects that can be induced in the brain using ultrasound-induced excitation, including:
Pulsed focused ultrasound with microbubbles to open the blood-brain barrier
Remote palpation using short ultrasound pulses, where tissue displacement is induced by the ultrasonic radiation pressure
Temporary modulation of brain activity with low-intensity ultrasound while maintaining the ability to treat the whole brain
Focused ultrasound can induce 18 different biological effects when it interacts with tissue. These bioeffects—alone or in combination—are being investigated for use in treating numerous diseases.
Along with updates to the Mechanisms of Action section of our website, a comprehensive White Paper is now available for download that includes illustrations for each mechanism--thermal ablation, opening the blood-brain barrier, and mechanical destruction among others.
All illustrations can be freely used by the community.
Foundation Chief Scientific Officer, Jessica Foley, and Congressman Hurt discuss focused ultrasound brain applications
Virginia Representatives Support Focused Ultrasound
US Congressman Robert Hurt and State Delegate Steve Landes visited the Foundation on August 18 to learn about the promise of focused ultrasound and our mission. The staff shared the latest research developments to come out of the University of Virginia (UVA) and around the globe.
“I commend the Foundation for its leadership and innovation in bringing academic research, treatment facilities, and capital resources all together to collaborate in the best interest of the patient,” said Hurt.
“Virginia has incredible assets related to brain research and improving the understanding of the brain. It is great to hear that the Focused Ultrasound Center at UVA is making such great strides on behalf of Parkinson’s, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s, a disease that has struck my own family,” said Landes.
Former Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, PhD, has joined the Foundation's Council. “Throughout my career, I have thrived on creating environments to push the frontiers of knowledge,” says Steger. “I am excited to work with the Foundation as they play a critical role in advancing development of focused ultrasound -- an early-stage technology with incredible potential to transform patient care.”
“We are honored to welcome such a visionary leader and passionate investor in education and innovation,” said Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD. “Having overseen the creation of the medical school at Virginia Tech, Charles’ contributions will be valuable as we fuel research and empower the next generation to shape the future of medicine.”
Nine students spent time with the Foundation team this summer, working on projects spanning from technical research to communications to assessing how the technology fits into the evolving health care environment. Three of the 2014 interns remained with us over the year to delve deeper into their projects.
“As the program evolves, the projects become more complex, and we are able to bring in students from broader backgrounds,” says the Foundation’s Director of Extramural Research, Matt Eames, PhD. “This year, we were fortunate to welcome students from France and Korea, giving the group perspective on the global reach of this technology.”
"Luckily, I didn’t know enough about the field to know that it was impossible, and I didn’t know enough to be afraid. So I tried a lot of new parameters that have never been tried before, and I was able to find something that could control cavitation to create tissue fractionation. What I tried was outside the range of what people would do." – Dr. Xu
Foundation Research Award Update: Ultrasonic Thrombolysis Using Histotripsy
Dr. Zhen Xu and her group recently completed a Foundation-funded study that evaluated the use of histotripsy for thrombolysis—dissolving unwanted blood clots. This important work may one day create non-invasive treatment options for deep vein thrombosis, stroke, myocardial infarction, and other clotting diseases. Dr. Xu’s study investigated the safety of 1) applying histotripsy to free-flowing blood while measuring hemolytic effects; 2) applying “microtripsy” to the lumen of the blood vessel to avoid epithelial damage on the vessel walls; and 3) evaluating the use of bubble-induced, real-time color Doppler for quantitatively monitoring the thrombolysis.
To learn more about Dr. Xu, how she and her colleagues came to discover the phenomena underlying histotripsy, and the broad scope of her work (pediatrics, cardiology, neurology and more) at the University of Michigan, we interviewed her for an investigator profile.
Parkinson’s Disease Jin Woo Chang from the Brain Research Institute at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea published a case report of successful unilateral focused ultrasound pallidotomy in a patient with Parkinson’s disease. The non-invasive procedure led to control of both the levodopa-induced dyskinesia and the cardinal motor symptoms. See the paper.
Pancreatic Cancer University of Washington researchers were able to use pulsed focused ultrasound to interrupt the stromal barrier that makes pancreatic cancer difficult to treat. In the study, the group used cavitation to increase the normalized chemotherapy concentration by up to 4.5-fold.
Prostate Profound Medical was able to show accurate and precise conformal thermal ablation of prostate tissue. Read the paper.
JTU Article of the Month: Effects of FUS Ablation on Bone
A study from the Netherlands, published in The Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound, investigated the mechanical properties and modeling that occurs in bone after focused ultrasound (FUS) ablation. Because FUS is a promising treatment for bone pain, the group used imaging and histology to identify the cellular level bone damage that activated bone repair mechanisms. They determined that it did not have a mechanical impact on the bone tissue. The open-access article is available on the JTU website.
HistoSonics Raises Additional $2.1 Million for Vortx Rx Development
In addition to the $15.5 million raised in the previous 5 years, HistoSonics has added $2.1 million in debt, options, and other securities to further develop its Vortx Rx System, a non-invasive, ultrasound-guided histotripsy ablation technology to treat benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). The full story is available online at Fierce Medical Devices.