This has been a year of establishing new frontiers for focused ultrasound – in opening a gateway to the brain, expanding access for US patients, and having a bestselling author champion the technology to new audiences.
One of the greatest milestones was achieved this fall when the blood-brain barrier was opened non-invasively in a patient for the first time. This accomplishment by the team at Sunnybrook was the culmination of years of groundwork conducted by scientists and engineers at institutions around the globe. We are proud to support this important research, which is the predicate for using focused ultrasound to deliver therapeutics for a range of neurological conditions. We are particularly interested in the potential to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and we are submitting a protocol for an early stage clinical trial to begin in 2016.
Several important strides were made for US patients this year. Men will no longer need to travel abroad to receive prostate treatment, as both the SonaCare and EDAP systems were approved by the FDA. Women with uterine fibroids can now be treated faster with Insightec’s UF3 system, and private insurance companies are creating new policies to cover treatment for bone metastases.
In addition to supporting research, part of our core mission is to raise awareness among a range of stakeholders. We were delighted to have John Grisham write The Tumor, a fictional portrayal of focused ultrasound's potential to impact future health. He debuted the short book last month at TEDx Charlottesville, and since then we have had thousands of free books ordered. We hope you will continue to spread the word and share the TEDx video.
As we look toward 2016, we are excited to celebrate our 10th anniversary and our 5th Symposium. The theme for the Symposium is “Focused Ultrasound at the Tipping Point.” We are very close to this point – where the critical technical and scientific advances that so many of you have achieved are on the verge of translating into commercial successes that will benefit countless patients.
Thank you for being a part of this passionate community that will ultimately make this shift and change the lives of millions of patients.
The Focused Ultrasound Foundation team
"I’m so glad that TEDx can play a small part in helping tell this big story." – Kingston
Ann Kingston Joins Council
The Foundation Council is pleased to welcome Ann Kingston, the organizer of TEDx Charlottesville. As an artist manager and head of philanthropic initiatives for Red Light Management, Kingston works with the company’s clients to form strategic partnerships with non-profits on local and national levels, assists bands in using their voices to effect positive change, and helps produce large-scale benefit concerts. In addition to her philanthropic role, Ann also manages South African folksinger, poet-activist Vusi Mahlasela, and is a part of the management team for Dave Matthews Band. A graduate of the University of Virginia, she and her husband live in Charlottesville with their two young boys.
“Ann brings her vibrant leadership style and unique philanthropic ideas to the group,” said Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD. “She will help the Council gain access to a fresh demographic and she has a deep interest and enthusiasm for focused ultrasound.”
John Grisham Book Generates Tremendous Interest
The launch of The Tumor, John Grisham’s new medical fiction story about a brain tumor patient whose life is prolonged due to treatment with focused ultrasound, has been very successful with nearly 20,000 free digital and hard copy books ordered in just a couple of weeks.
A board member and steadfast supporter of the Foundation for years, John has written the short book to ignite widespread interest and raise funds to support focused ultrasound.
John Grisham’s Facebook post stating, “This is the most important book I have ever written,” started the buzz building in early December, along with posts by groups like Michael J. Fox Foundation’s FoxFeed Blog. We encourage you to help spread the word about The Tumor via social media. Tell your family and friends about this revolutionary technology and inspiring book and jump over to John Grisham's Facebook page to share his post!
Promotion of the book will continue in the new year as The Tumor becomes available for free download on Amazon. As we continue our mission to raise awareness for the technology and shorten the time it takes to help patients, order the book, and spread the word!
Watch Now: John Grisham, Neal Kassell at TEDx Charlottesville
In November, Neal Kassell and John Grisham took the TEDx Charlottesville stage along with a Parkinson's patient to spread the word about focused ultrasound's potential. Kassell discussed how the evolution of a new therapy often takes decades because of myriad technical, regulatory and awareness barriers.
John Grisham related why he became involved in the Foundation and his role as a storyteller in helping to spread the word. He introduced his new short book, The Tumor.
Then the story transformed from fiction to reality. Kassell introduced a video of Parkinson's patient Kimberly Spletter, disabled by uncontrollable shaking, posing the question, “What if focused ultrasound could help?”
Kimberly ran on stage to share her experience as one of the first participants in a clinical trial to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's. She spoke of renewed hope and thanked the pioneers helping to make new breakthroughs possible. The awe-inspired audience of more than 1,000 rose to their feet with a standing ovation.
"Ultimately, we feel that this combination of ablation, drug, and immunotherapy will be very powerful." – Katherine W. Ferrara, PhD to Healthcare Business News
FUS Plus Chemotherapy Cures Cancer in Mice
In a new paper in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Katherine W. Ferrara, PhD, and her team at UC Davis report their strategy to destroy an entire tumor without thermal destruction of the tumor margin. Her group used focused ultrasound to dramatically increase the concentration of doxorubicin within several types of tumors using mouse models of mammary carcinoma.
Ferrara's previous research showed that ultrasound-induced mild hyperthermia could enhance the accumulation of doxorubicin-loaded nanoparticles in a tumor, but the accumulation was dependent on the type of tumor. Her group hypothesized that combining thermal ablation and chemotherapy could improve efficacy across multiple types of tumors.
"Focused ultrasound has now become a part of RSNA's interventional radiology refresher courses. These invitations to participate show how far our field has advanced." – Alessandro Napoli, MD, PhD
Focused Ultrasound at RSNA 2015
The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) has again featured significant focused ultrasound research at its annual meeting, held November 29 - December 4 in Chicago. There were 18 presentations covering neurological and oncological applications, bone, pancreas and liver, and women’s health. Full-day sessions were devoted to liver/pancreas and uterine fibroids.
In his presidential address, RSNA President Ronald L. Arenson, MD, said, "…radiologists must be ready to embrace not only the technological innovations that are unfolding at warp speed but also to become catalysts for change within their own practices and the profession as a whole. Radiology's future includes everything from wearable devices and the world's fastest receiving-only 2-D cameras to quantum computers…Other advancements likely to impact radiology include high-intensity focused ultrasound….."
The Wave Physics for Medicine and Biology laboratory is a leading biomedical research center. They are developing innovative imaging concepts ranging from the cellular level (using optical waves) to internal organs (using ultrasound waves), and creating and patenting therapeutic innovations in focused ultrasound.
Headed by Dr. Mickaël Tanter, the laboratory is within the Institut Langevin in Paris. Since research spans from basic science to clinical translation, the laboratory is affiliated with the French National Institute of Health (Inserm), the French National Center for Research (CNRS), and the ESPCI ParisTech School of Engineering.
We interviewed Dr. Jean-François Aubry to learn more about the laboratory and their projects.
Providing A Multi-indication MR Imaging Guided Focused Ultrasound Service
Are you or is someone you know considering bringing focused ultrasound service to a medical center or academic setting? In his recent presentation at the 3rd European Symposium on Focused Ultrasound Therapy, Pejman Ghanouni, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Radiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, shared his perspective on the ways that focused ultrasound is a disrupting current medical practice and three institutional models that are currently in use.
Focused ultrasound—induced neuromodulation has progressed. An international group of researchers was able to elicit leg responses in one area of the brain and EEG potentials in another area using a sheep model, but cautioned that excessively repetitive pulsed applications may cause microhemorrhages. Another, related group opened the blood-brain barrier to deliver the neurotransmitter GABA, successfully creating a new method for neuromodulation with focused ultrasound. In focal therapy for prostate cancer, a retrospective study of sexual activity after focused ultrasound treatment in 118 patients found that erectile dysfunction returned to baseline 6 months after treatment, was maintained at one year, and required no additional medical treatment.
JTU Article of the Month – Validation of a New Device for Sonoporation of Cancer Cells
Sonoporation, a mechanism of focused ultrasound that is used to mechanically open cellular membranes, is being studied by researchers as a way to deliver targeted drugs or genes into unwanted cancer cells. Researchers at Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute have designed and tested a new device to evaluate varying parameters for accessing cancer cells this way. Did they successfully reduce the time and expertise required to perform sonoporation on cervical cancer cell cultures? Read the article in the Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound.
Technology Upgrade Reduces Fibroadenoma Treatment Time
The Theraclion Echopulse focused ultrasound system for treating breast fibroadenoma is being upgraded with a faster technology called BEAMOTION, which speeds treatment time by a factor of five.
After earning the CE Mark on November 18, the first two patients were treated on November 30, 2015 at the Marienhospital in Bottrop, Germany. The clinical trials that led to the CE marking of BEAMOTION were conducted using conscious sedation; however, the November 30 procedures only needed a simple local anesthetic to treat four breast fibroadenomas in 11, 15, 16, and 18 minutes, respectively.
Echopulse, which is approved in Europe and currently in clinical trials in the US, gives surgeons and radiologists a non-invasive treatment solution for fibroadenoma. BEAMOTION will now be added to clinical systems that are already in use.
Exablate Neuro has CE marks for essential tremor, tremor dominant Parkinson’s, and neuropathic pain. It is under FDA review for essential tremor.
Exablate Neuro Approved in Korea
The Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has approved Insightec’s Exablate Neuro system to treat movement, pain, and behavioral disorders. This regulatory advance will allow Korean patients suffering from neurological disorders to receive focused ultrasound as a non-invasive treatment option.