Like many of you, all of us at the Focused Ultrasound Foundation were surprised and saddened to learn of Senator John McCain’s recent glioblastoma (GBM) diagnosis. GBM and other brain tumors are a major focus of our research here at the Foundation, and unfortunately we are all too familiar with the devastating effects of this disease on patients and their families. Our thoughts and well wishes are with the McCains and we sincerely hope he will be one of the lucky ones to survive for many years to come.

When news of the Senator’s diagnosis became public, we were flooded with inquiries about whether focused ultrasound (FUS) could treat his tumor. Unfortunately the short answer, at the present time, is no. Focused ultrasound is still in the early stages of development for brain tumors. We hope and expect, however, that the technology will be available in the not too distant future as an effective, noninvasive alternative or complement to traditional GBM treatments to improve quality and longevity of life in these patients.

The research on glioblastoma is robust — and showing great promise. A major portion of the Foundation’s resources is directed toward pre-clinical laboratory projects and clinical trials to evaluate the role of FUS in managing GBM. (Learn about the Foundation’s GBM consortium project.) Areas of focus include: destroying the tumor; stimulating the body’s immune response (promoting anti-tumor immune response); and opening the blood-brain barrier to enhance delivery and effectiveness of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other drugs (reducing toxicity and side-effects). Below are just a few observations from some of the more recent publications:

  • “It is now well-established that FUS in conjunction with contrast agent microbubbles may be used to [open the blood-brain barrier to deliver drugs to the brain] … FUS-mediated BBB disruption has the potential to fundamentally change how [brain tumors] are treated.” View abstract.
  • “Focused ultrasound-enhanced [drug] delivery significantly retarded glioma progression [in mice], with a significantly increased median survival as compared to the group [treated without FUS].” View abstract.
  • “Transcranial focused ultrasound can noninvasively transmit acoustic energy with a high degree of accuracy and safety to targets and regions within the brain … FUS offers a multifaceted approach to the treatment of brain tumors.” View abstract.
  • Using focused ultrasound, “several therapeutic agents have been delivered to the brain resulting in significant improvements in pathology in models of glioblastoma and Alzheimer’s disease.” View abstract.

Visit our brain tumor page for details on the state of the field, unique benefits/advantages of FUS for GBM treatment, information about clinical trials, and additional research and resources.

We are optimistic that this research will have a critical impact in treating GBM, and within the next few years FUS will become a part of the mainstream therapy for these patients. Our short-term goal is to make focused ultrasound more accessible to patients through supporting clinical trials, getting us closer to the end goal of saving lives as quickly as possible. Though the FUS field is growing exponentially — with more than 22 regulatory approvals worldwide, including five by the FDA, and more than 50 additional clinical indications such as GBM in various stages of development — we still have much to do. Please check out the helpful links below and consider joining the fight by spreading the word and helping us bring this promising technology to as many people as we can, as soon as we can.

Be well,

Additional links:

Download a free copy of John Grisham’s The Tumor, a non-legal thriller discussing focused ultrasound, which he has called “the most important book I’ve ever written.”

Read this blog on Medium.

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