As reported in our special bulletin on August 15th, the results of our pilot study on focused ultrasound treatment for essential tremor (ET) have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. To read more about these promising results, see our website. The ET clinical trial was funded by the Foundation and conducted at the University of Virginia by neurosurgeon W. Jeffrey Elias, MD. The patients in the study were treated using InSightec's ExAblate Neuro system.
This achievement raises the profile of focused ultrasound within the worldwide medical community and validates its potential to noninvasively treat ET and other neurological disorders. In fact, several media outlets reported on the study. See our Media Coverage section below.
Based on the study outcomes – all patients experienced reduced tremor and improved quality of life – a larger trial for FDA approval of focused ultrasound to treat ET is already beginning. This research has also paved the way for studying other neurological conditions that could ultimately impact countless lives. The abstract is available on the New England Journal of Medicine website.
We congratulate Dr. Elias and his co-authors on the publication of their research. We also are grateful for the pioneering patients who helped make medical history by participating in this study and the generous donors who fund our work.
Richard Merkin, MD, CEO of Heritage Provider Network
"In the 21st century we can no longer practice 20th century medicine. We must embrace new technologies, we must embrace Focused Ultrasound."
- Richard Merkin, MD
Richard Merkin Visiting Fellowship in Focused Ultrasound
The Foundation is thrilled to announce the receipt of a significant gift from Dr. Richard Merkin to create a unique fellowship opportunity for international researchers.
The Richard Merkin Visiting Fellowship in Focused Ultrasound will bring scientists from around the world to work with the technical and scientific team at the Foundation on specific research projects. The position will foster collaboration between the Foundation, the Fellow's home institution, and other institutions. There is also a potential opportunity for an academic appointment.
"Dr. Merkin has been extraordinarily philanthropic in many areas of the future of medicine. Our goal is to make his support of focused ultrasound have as large an impact as anything else he has accomplished. This contribution will make a material difference in fostering collaboration between key stakeholders," said the Foundation's CEO, Neal Kassell.
The Fellowship is open immediately. For information on the application process, contact Matt Eames, PhD, Director of Extramural Research, .
Richard Merkin, MD, is a successful physician, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is Co-Founder of FasterCures, an "action think tank" that seeks to speed up the time it takes to get important new medicines from discovery to patients. Dr. Merkin believes in the transformative potential of focused ultrasound. After learning about the FUS Foundation's initiatives and unique research model at the 2012 Partnering for Cures Meeting, Dr. Merkin decided to get involved and create the Fellowship.
"Our internship program cultivates the next generation of researchers through a variety of projects addressing pre-clinical and clinical challenges. The interns' work will lead to submitting five publications in scientific journals. They will all be invaluable ambassadors for the technology within their universities and the scientific community"
- Jean-François Aubry, PhD
Summer Internship Program Engages the Next Generation
2012 Summer Interns Front row: Benjamin Sela, Meredith Lee, Carissa Carlson; Back row: Hsien Ting Kuo, Jack Chirichigno, Mercy Farnum, Nic Hogan
The Foundation’s successful summer internship program continued in 2013 under the leadership of Visiting Fellow Jean-Francois Aubry, PhD. Seven new students worked on various projects to enhance understanding of focused ultrasound biomedical engineering, data management, and business technology.
Intern roster: Click on the names to learn what each intern accomplished this summer.
"It's a great fit for the High-Risk Track of the Foundation's Research Awards Program, and we're pleased to be funding the first such project at MD Anderson."
- Matt Eames, PhD
3rd Quarter Research Awards
Matt Eames, PhD, FUSF Director of Extramural Research, announced $100,000 in funding for a new 3rd quarter project.
The research is a High-Risk Track project from Sunil Krishnan, MD and Jason Stafford, PhD at MD Anderson Cancer Center that is entitled "Deep Penetrating Release Nanoparticles As Tumor Radiosensitizers."
This early-stage work builds upon the principle that focused ultrasound (FUS)--induced hyperthermia (heat) can make tissue more responsive to radiotherapy treatments by introducing gold nanoparticles (GNPs). These GNPs are believed to amplify this effect on tissue sensitivity, potentially altering the course of treatment for many different disease conditions.
In brief, the researchers plan to:
Determine how GNP cells are activated by the heat of FUS.
Distinguish between radiosensitization due to FUS heat and that due to the release of the GNPs.
Optimize GNP-based radiosensitization.
Irradiation of GNP-filled tumors results in dose enhancement, but it is challenging to load tumors with enough gold to reach the therapy's true potential. The project will attempt to use the heat from FUS to allow a higher accumulation of gold within tumors, particularly deep within the core of the tumors.
Therapeutic Ultrasound Featured at AAPM Meeting in Indianapolis
The session included a full day on Advances in Therapeutic Ultrasound. One of several experts on the topic, Dr. Arik Hananel, FUSF Medical Director, was invited to present the topic of "MRg HIFU – Current and Future Trends of MR Guided Focused Ultrasound in Radiation Oncology," which was well received by the audience of about 50 attendees.
As a follow-up to these sessions, the AAPM is continuing to develop their FUS agenda by including a spotlight session on image-guided drug delivery at the World Molecular Imaging Society's (WMIS) 6th annual congress in Savannah, GA on September 18 - 21, 2013.
Image-guided drug delivery, with ultrasound used both to guide and enhance the therapeutic effect, has demonstrated a significant opportunity for enhanced therapeutic response. Vehicles triggered by the thermal and mechanical effects of ultrasound are now entering clinical trials. Work presented in this spotlight session will span the vehicles that can be engineered to enhance delivery and the applications of these image-guided vehicles in cancer and neuroscience.
On July 29, 2013, InSightec announced that it received approval from the Chinese Food and Drug Administration to use their ExAblate MRgFUS system to treat women with symptomatic uterine fibroids. This non-surgical, noninvasive treatment option will now available to millions more women.
Focused Ultrasound Prostate Cancer Treatment Available in Southampton, UK
On August 14th, the Daily Echo included a story about the first focused ultrasound prostate cancer treatment performed at Spire Southampton Hospital in Southampton, UK, by Dr. Timothy Dudderidge, a consultant urological surgeon. The treatment was successfully performed on a 77-year-old man with prostate cancer.
JTU Article of the Month – A Roadmap to treat Liver Cancer
In the August issue, The Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound included a highly collaborative (authors from 19 different institutions) manuscript that outlines a roadmap to the clinical use of focused ultrasound in treating liver cancer.
Medical and business news coverage about the New England Journal of Medicine article is raising awareness of the technology. Recent articles include:
"Shooting Beams at Brain Helps Ease Tremors in Patients" on Bloomberg Businessweek 8/16/13 includes this quote: "This is really a game-changer of a trial for essential tremor," said Travis Tierney, director of Stereotactic & Functional Neurosurgery at Boston's Brigham & Women's Hospital, who wasn't involved in the study. "It basically means we can treat the disease without an incision in the scalp."