Thirty leading engineers, physicists, and clinicians from 17 organizations convened at the Brain Workshop on Treatment Envelope & Simulation in Charlottesville February 2-3. They gathered to discuss ways to create accurate computer simulations to assess expanding the treatable area of the brain (treatment envelope), to facilitate patient selection, and to predict and prevent unwanted secondary effects like skull heating.
Focused ultrasound has been successful in treating targets in the center of the brain for movement disorders and neuropathic pain. To increase the utility of the technology to treat brain tumors, epilepsy, and other disorders, this “treatment envelope” of focused ultrasound needs to expand and include peripheral targets.
As an alternative to costly and potentially risky human research, treatments in these peripheral locations could be modeled with computer simulation to determine which areas can be effectively targeted prior to actual treatments on patients. There are computer models for simulating focused ultrasound treatments in various parts of the body, but none have been validated for the brain.
The workshop was held to foster the development of computer applications that will help select patients for treatment based on CT skull characteristics and plan target locations with predictions for the required power and duration of ultrasound therapy to treat an individual patient. “This is the perfect setting for dialog between the physicists and engineers who are studying the acoustic characteristics of the technology and the clinicians who want to effectively apply the treatment,” said John Snell, PhD, Technical Director of the Foundation’s Brain Program.
The experts created a roadmap of projects leading to computer simulation for expanding the treatment envelope and for patient selection and treatment planning. Next, they will produce a white paper with timelines, milestones, and roles and responsibilities to pair with each research project. The goal is to complete this work within six months.
"I ended up having several new ideas for my own research and hope to contribute some data to this exciting field in the near future. These small and focused meetings are very helpful for advancing cancer research." – Workshop participant Elizabeth Repasky, PhD
Groups Collaborate To Assess Potential of FUS-Immunotherapy Combination
On February 11th in New York, the Foundation partnered with the Cancer Research Institute to convene a one-day meeting of scientists and clinicians to discuss the current status of and future directions for focused ultrasound (FUS) research as it relates to cancer immunotherapy.
The workshop brought together nearly 30 investigators with expertise in cancer immunology, FUS, radiation oncology, and clinical immunotherapy, as well as representatives from three nonprofit organizations dedicated to bringing patients new cancer therapies. “Partnership with the Cancer Research Institute was crucial for making this workshop a success,” said Jessica L. Foley, PhD, the Foundation’s Chief Scientific Officer. “CRI has been a leader in advancing immunotherapy research and clinical practice for more than 60 years, and the thought leadership provided by their staff and the immunological experts they brought to the discussion helped guide us in the right direction for future research.”
"Immunotherapy has tremendous potential to synergize with other cancer treatment modalities, achieving better clinical outcomes while possibly reducing harmful side effects," said Jill O'Donnell-Tormey, PhD, CEO and Director of Scientific Affairs at the Cancer Research Institute.
Save the Date: MJFF Webinar on Focused Ultrasound and Deep Brain Stimulation
Chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, Neal F. Kassell, MD, will serve as a panelist on a March 19 webinar at 12 pm Eastern time hosted by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The discussion will cover new frontiers in neuromodulation, including focused ultrasound and new applications of deep brain stimulation. Panelists will take questions from attendees during the live event, and the archived webinar will be available after March 19.
As follow-up to the May 2014 Reimbursement Summit on bone pain and uterine fibroids, the Foundation organized stakeholder meetings in January to strategize essential tremor insurance reimbursement and further refine the plan for uterine fibroids. Bringing more than 25 industry leaders, clinicians, scientists, and regulatory experts together to advance these comprehensive approaches is one way that we fulfill our mission toward widespread access to focused ultrasound treatment.
Nora Seilheimer Joins Foundation as New Co-Director of Development
Nora Seilheimer, who recently joined Mike Cashman as the Foundation’s Co-Director of Development, will be instrumental in introducing the Foundation’s venture philanthropy model to new supporters and forging partnerships with key stakeholders. “I look forward to working with our proactive community of donors to build support to advance the cause,” said Nora. Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD, added, "Nora has assisted the Foundation on a volunteer basis, showing exceptional ability, spirit, and talent. We are delighted to welcome her to our leadership team." She joins us from her recent role of Principal Gifts Officer at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, after beginning her nonprofit career with the Montpelier Foundation.
General Bernard Loeffke and Dr. Neal Kassell with the General’s children’s book, “Wellness Magic: A Magical Way to Stay Healthy”
International Diplomat, Wellness Advocate Visits Foundation to Discuss Opportunities in China
On January 16, the Foundation was honored to host international diplomat and wellness advocate, General Bernard Loeffke, to begin preliminary discussions about focused ultrasound technology and the Foundation’s potential opportunities for collaboration in China.
Over the last nine years, the Foundation has sponsored 76 research projects in Europe, Asia, and North America, but none have been funded in China despite that fact that it is one of the leading hubs of focused ultrasound success. With more than 85 commercial centers, 27 centers conducting research, and 7 manufacturers in China, opportunities for medical research exchange may be increasing due to a newly extended US-China agreement that allows visas between the nations to be issued for up to 10 years.
Bradley Treeby, Yung Jin, and Alec Hughes participate in workshop
Researchers Tackle Brain Technical Issues
As more than 30 experts from around the world gathered at the Brain Simulation Workshop, we sat down with a group of young researchers to discuss the work needed to broaden the areas of the brain that can be treated with focused ultrasound.
Raag Airan, MD joins the discussion
Currently, the technology is able to effectively focus ultrasound beams on regions in or near the thalamus for treating movement disorders. “It is typical in developing applications for a new technology to start with a relatively straightforward and simple approach. Then more careful studies and modeling are undertaken to elucidate mechanisms, refine the technology, and improve outcomes,” said Wayne Kreider, Senior Engineer, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington.
NIH Highlights Focused Ultrasound Research in Press Release
On February 11th, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering issued a press release to tout their funded focused ultrasound research performed by Kullervo Hynynen, PhD, and his group at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto. The results, which were presented at the Foundation’s 2014 Symposium, state that, “For the first time, researchers have reversed some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging-guided focused ultrasound.” The group temporarily opened the blood-brain barrier (BBB) with focused ultrasound and a microbubble contrast agent. The mice also had reduced brain plaques and increased plasticity in the hippocampus, both of which have been correlated to improved learning and memory. The release has been picked up on AuntMinnie.com, Bioportfolio.com, and Gizmag.com.
The United Kingdom’s ITV television channel recently aired a two minute special report. In the video segment, the reporter shares the story of Moira Rogers and her experience participating in the bone metastases clinical trial at the Institute for Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, a focused ultrasound Center of Excellence. After Moira’s breast cancer spread to her shoulder, she worried about more trips to the hospital and stated that this trial “helped me believe that the pain can be treated and be optimistic about where we are going.” The feature was also mentioned on Medical News Today, Cancer & Community Charities, and Oncologist.tv, among others.
Floyd Dunn 1924-2015
In Memoriam: Floyd Dunn
On January 24, we lost one of the giants of therapeutic ultrasound when Professor Floyd Dunn passed away at age 90. Dunn served as the Director of the Bioacoustics Research Laboratory at Illinois, studying and writing about the characterization of focused ultrasound lesions in the brain and the acoustic properties of different types of tissues
A history and review in World Neurosurgery states that “as the quest for minimally invasive and noninvasive therapeutics continues to define the new neurosurgery, the focused ultrasound evolves to join the neurosurgical armamentarium.”
Researchers at Columbia University used focused ultrasound to introduce neuroprotective and regenerative molecules across the blood-brain barrier.
The Journal of Evidence Based Medicine includes a review on focused ultrasound for pancreatic cancer.
Leading physicists review focused ultrasound-guided therapy under ultrasound, rather than MRI, guidance.
A German medical review on uterine fibroid treatment includes focused ultrasound.
Focused ultrasound is being used for several gynecologic indications in China
Noncancerous breast tumors usually occur in women under the age of 30 and are seen in about 10% of all women during their lifetime
JTU Article of the Month – Breast Fibroadenoma
Focused ultrasound treatment of breast fibroadenoma—a multicenter experience highlights the latest issue of The Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound. Physicians who performed this clinical study in Europe determined that ultrasound-guided focused ultrasound is an effective and well tolerated noninvasive treatment for benign breast tumors. These encouraging preliminary results mention that focused ultrasound could be an alternative to surgery. The full-text, open-access article is available on the JTU website. The article also gained the attention of Medical Physics Web and 7thspace.com.