During Cancer Immunotherapy Month, this special report highlights the potential impact of focused ultrasound in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Researchers are assessing its ability to enhance the immune system on its own and in combination with other therapies to fight cancer. Can FUS be a player in this exciting field?
Can Focused Ultrasound Assist Cancer Immunotherapy?
Cancer immunotherapies are agents that harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer. Unlike traditional cancer treatments that directly kill tumor cells (such as chemotherapy and radiation), immunotherapy operates through the intermediary of the immune system. Immunotherapies empower the immune system to specifically seek out and destroy cancer cells. Because of the immune system’s extraordinary power to selectively target cancer antigens and adapt to a changing landscape of antigens, this approach has the potential to greatly improve cancer treatment, providing durable, long-term responses in many cases. Focused ultrasound may also have an impact on this burgeoning field.
"Cancer immunotherapy... continues to surge as clinical researchers amass evidence that the immune system can be a powerful ally against tumors. One big focus now is mixing and matching treatments: combining two novel immunotherapies." – Science Magazine, Areas to Watch 2015
FUS Induces an Immune Response Many preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that FUS can elicit an immune response (see more). One type of immune response to FUS is the stimulation of tumor cells to release antigens and danger signals that alert the body to use its natural ability to fight the cancer. Since 1992, studies have shown that FUS alone produces immunological effects. Its role in cancer immunotherapy began with preclinical studies that verified its ability to elicit a measurable immune response, to enhance overall survival, and to prevent tumor regrowth. A list of these studies and their immunological effects is available on our website. Learn More >
Low and High Intensity FUS Chandan Guha at Montefiore Medical Center has been using low intensity FUS (LOFU) prior to high intensity FUS thermal ablation to give the tumors a “sonic shock,” boosting the immune response. Read about his results >
FUS in Combination with Other Therapies Some studies are already showing that FUS may also improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation. Another idea is to combine FUS with immunotherapy drugs.
This Focus Feature serves as an introduction and brief glimpse into the role of FUS in this exciting, complex, and promising new field of research. Watch the newsletter for reporting on future immunotherapy milestones, and stay informed on the Foundation’s Immunomodulation page, which includes resources and further describes FUS’s role in immunotherapy.
The field of cancer immunotherapy is progressing rapidly, with several new agents approved by the FDA just this year. Most exciting are so-called checkpoint inhibitors that “take the brakes off” the immune response and enable a stronger immune attack against cancer. Despite their demonstrated benefits of tumor regression and increased overall survival, these therapies are effective in only 20-40% of patients.
Focused ultrasound may play a role in improving the effectiveness of immunotherapy to fight cancer. On March 18th, the Foundation hosted “Cancer Immunotherapy - Opportunities and Barriers," a 90-minute webinar featuring Tim Bullock, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Virginia. Dr. Bullock presented an introduction to cancer immunotherapy and discussed opportunities for focused ultrasound to make an impact in this burgeoning field.
"I ended up with 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
Partnership with CRI Assesses the Potential for FUS and Immunotherapy
In February, the Foundation partnered with the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) to convene scientists and clinicians to discuss the current status and future directions of focused ultrasound research as it relates to cancer immunotherapy. The workshop brought nearly 30 investigators together in New York for a meeting, which was summarized in the February Newsletter. Highlighted presentations and outcomes can be found in the Workshop Summary. The meeting’s success laid the groundwork for future collaboration between the Foundation and CRI.
At February’s Cancer Immunotherapy workshop, Chandan Guha, MBBS, PhD, presented his preclinical work using focused ultrasound (FUS) to create a “tumor vaccine.” To achieve this, he used low intensity FUS (LOFU) to give the tumor a sonic shock prior to applying high intensity FUS (HIFU) thermal ablation. The sequential application of LOFU and then HIFU induced a significant tumor-specific T cell immune response in preclinical mouse models of solid cancer. Dr. Guha hypothesized that the LOFU treatment caused cellular stress and protein misfolding, which increased the immunogenicity of the tumor and enabled the HIFU to be more effective in not only ablating the tumor but inducing strong anti-tumoral immunity.
The February 2015 State of the Field for Immunotherapy report includes a list of 23 published preclinical and clinical studies that report immunologic effects of focused ultrasound. The papers, from 1992 through 2013, address metastatic brain tumors, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, sarcoma, pancreatic cancer, and neuroblastoma.
Other organizations working in the field of cancer immunotherapy include those devoted to specific types of cancer and several, like the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), that support this work on a global scale.
Join the Foundation's Immunotherapy Working Group
To encourage discussion and collaboration among those active in the field of immunotherapy or among those with an expressed interest in this potentially game changing field, the Foundation has formed an Immunotherapy Working Group. Join us! Interested clinicians and researchers should contact Jessica Foley, PhD, the Foundation’s Chief Scientific Officer.
Join us Tomorrow to White Out Cancer
June is Cancer Immunotherapy Awareness Month, so the Cancer Research Institute created White Out Cancer Day, symbolizing the colors of all the cancer support ribbons rolled into one - white!
We got in on the fun a little early, but tomorrow is the day to wear white and show your support.
Participate in three easy steps:
Wear white tomorrow, June 12
Take a selfie - be sure to get your family, friends, or coworkers in on it!
Share it on social media with the hashtag #WhiteOutCancer
Follow the Foundation on facebook and twitter to see more of our white out antics!