Exciting things continue to develop in the world of MR guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) and the FUS Foundation. We are vigorously seeking to put this revolutionary medical technology in the hands of clinicians quickly so that diseases that effect all of us can be treated like never before.
In this edition of our newsletter, we feature a new center with substantial resources to perform research on focused ultrasound applications, a new company dedicated to using MRgFUS to treat prostate cancer, and additional expertise in the FUS Foundation to channel research into medical applications.
If you're a researcher, see how our Research Awards can enable you to push the boundaries of what this revolutionary technology can do. If you're a clinician, apply for one of our Fellowship Awards to equip you to assist with research programs as well as treating patients in approved applications.
In addition, watch for our new website with improved content for researchers, clinicians, and patients coming soon!
SRI Toronto – Research Site Report
Toronto Accelerates Focused Ultrasound Research
The Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) in Toronto is becoming one of the world’s premier research sites for image guided therapy and focused ultrasound, with substantial funding now available to realize ambitious goals.
Imaging research at SRI is led by distinguished physicist Kullervo Hynynen, Ph.D., who came to Toronto from Harvard in 2006, where he helped pioneer focused ultrasound technology, and is one of the most published and cited researchers in the field. Over 200 people are now pursuing independent research in the areas of image guided treatments, therapeutic ultrasound, and combinations of both at SRI. Many of these are Ph.D. students and post-doctoral researchers drawn from the medical biophysics department at the University of Toronto. Since 2006, Hynynen has helped to attract major funding, including over $12 million in government funding for his "Focused Ultrasound Devices for Noninvasive Surgery and Drug Delivery" initiative in 2007, and more recently a $74.6 million grant to establish the first-of-its-kind in Canada, a Centre for Research in Image-Guided Therapeutics.
Transcranial MRgFUS has been a long-standing priority for Dr. Hynynen, and SRI will soon become one of the few North American centers to have installed the ExAblate Brain MRgFUS system manufactured by InSightec, and paired with a new GE 3T MRI. (Only Harvard and UCSD currently have this system, UVA plans to join this group during 2009). His collection of brain MRgFUS prototypes shows the steady evolution and increasing complexity of the device. Dr. Hynynen sees many possibilities for brain MRgFUS applications, including treatment of brain tumors and stroke. A more novel potential application which his group has been exploring is the delivery of monoclonal antibodies across the blood brain barrier, targeting the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Discussions are also ongoing with Philips Healthcare for SRI to become a research site for their new MRgFUS device which is slated to start clinical trials for uterine fibroids during 2009.
Dr. Hynynen sees the future of focused ultrasound devices as an exciting and inevitable increase in transducer sophistication and quantity, particularly in relation to multi-transducer arrays. He predicts that future devices will have thousands of transducers, each with the capability of generating different ultrasound frequencies and intensity levels, allowing for complete control over energy deposition. The facilities for focused ultrasound research at SRI are well equipped to realize this vision, with construction of new research labs ongoing, an abundance of state of the art equipment, and a dedicated prototype manufacturing capability. Research is expected to progress rapidly at SRI, not least because The Canadian health system allows many clinicians time to get involved in research, fostering a very collaborative culture which should result in good patient recruitment for future research studies.
Profound Medical – New MRI Controlled Ultrasound Device for Prostate Cancer
Profound Medical Inc. – MRI-guided trans-urethral ultrasound device may offer better targeting accuracy for Prostate Cancer
Profound Medical is a spin-off from SRI, commercializing a transurethral ultrasound device for the focal treatment of prostate cancer. Profound Medical (a name derived from a combination of prostate and ultrasound) is the result of research by founders Michael Bronskill, Ph.D., and Rajiv Chopra, Ph.D., both long-time researchers at SRI.
This device has already been in development for 10 years, and utilizes some important innovations to enable effective thermal ablation of prostate tissue. Miniaturization of the ultrasound transducer array allows transurethral administration – expected to reduce the risk of bowel injury.
The very close proximity of the transducer to the target tissue also allows for precise treatment of focal lesions. The MRI thermometry feedback mechanism is fully integrated with the sonication control system, so that real time thermal monitoring is used to adjust ultrasound power levels and maintain tight thermal control. A cooling mechanism in the transurethral probe protects the urethra from thermal damage – unless it is considered clinically necessary to treat the urethra. This cooling can also be used to restrict the ablated area to the middle or outer prostate.
Profound Medical has now attracted grant funding and venture capital. The next step will be to test their device in a cohort of patients scheduled for prostatectomy.
"There is clearly a convergence of demographic, economic, and scientific factors that are creating a compelling demand for improved treatment in Prostate Cancer," claimed Paul Chipperton, COO/CEO and co-founder of PMI. "The baby-boomer generation is reaching the age of highest incidence; screening and biopsy rates are vastly improved from just 5 years ago; all men, but particularly younger men, want less drastic, less invasive, surgical interventions that do not yield debilitating sexual, reproductive and continence problems; and MRI imaging is now at a performance and cost level that enables its use at a more utilitarian level. We believe our technology will quickly be proven as the best solution for the majority of Prostate Cancer patients out there, whether for whole prostate, or for the increasingly attractive focal therapy."
The FUS Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of serveral additional experts in the field of medicine to its Research Advisory Committee (RAC). The RAC reviews all funding applications and has approved several new funding awards during the Q4 2008. Details of this research will be announced soon. The full RAC membership includes (new members highlighted):
Jean-Francois Aubry, Ph.D.
Laboratoire Ondes et Acoustique, Paris
Michael Bronskill, Ph.D.
University of Toronto
Victor Frenkel, Ph.D.
National Institutes of Health
Kullervo Hynynen, Ph.D.
University of Toronto
Ferenc Jolesz, M.D., Ph.D.
Brigham & Womens
Gail ter Haar Ph.D.
Institute of Cancer Research, London
King Li, M.D.
The Methodist Hospital, Houston
Dade Lunsford, M.D.
University of Pittsburgh
Edward Oldfield, M.D.
University of Virginia
Alan Pollack, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Miami
Sham Sokka, Ph.D.
Howard Soule, Ph.D.
Prostate Cancer Foundation
Jacques Souquet, Ph.D.
Evan Unger, M.D.
University of Arizona
Eyal Zadicario, Ph.D.
FUSF Team Update
The Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation has expanded its team to strengthen fund raising and research administration functions.
Linda Jones Dalch joined the FUS team in January as Director of Advancement. She looks forward to helping increase the donor base and working with the Board members and FUS team to attract an additional $50 million in gifts and pledges over five years. Donor commitments to date total over $25 million. The goal for 2009 is $8 million. Jones development and non-profit career includes Vice President for Development, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, President of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, Vice President of the VCU Engineering Foundation, Director of Development for Virginia Commonwealth University’s Business School and Director of Leadership Gifts at the Darden School, University of Virginia. Consulting for non-profits included the performing arts and health initiatives.
Hannah Edelen is appointed Director of Research and Fellowship Administration. Hannah brings to the Foundation a wide range of experience in the areas of basic science research, research administration and law. She holds both a bachelors degree in biology and a law degree from the University of Virginia, where she recently worked as a senior contract negotiator for the Office of Sponsored Programs.
Jade Faulkner joins the Fibroid Relief team with responsibilities for outreach and communications support.
FUSF will be attending and exhibiting at the upcoming Society of Thermal Medicine Annual Meeting in Tucson Arizona April 3-7. This meeting, which is approved for 23.5 CME credits, has a session dedicated to MRgFUS. FUSF Newsletter readers who are attending and would like to learn more about FUSF activities and research funding programs are invited to arrange meetings in advance. Please email and provide a brief description of your area of interest. Visit www.thermaltherapy.org for details of STM 2009.
International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, Honolulu, April 18-24. Program includes MRgFUS presentations. www.ismrm.org/09/
Fibroid Relief Update
The Fibroid Relief team has been busy meeting with patients who have received treatment for their uterine fibroids and hearing their stories. We are grateful that a group of 3 patients have agreed to make videos for posting on our website, and to act as advocates for MRgFUS treatment. These videos will be going live in the coming weeks.