June is Cancer Immunotherapy Month, and the Foundation is proud to be a part of the emerging field of focused ultrasound for immune-based treatment of cancer, including the development of potential powerful combination approaches. Research is mounting to suggest that focused ultrasound can elicit an immune response, priming the immune system to increase the efficacy of immuno-oncology drugs.
The Focused Ultrasound Foundation is working with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy to identify a project to explore and assess the potential of focused ultrasound in combination with immune-based therapies to treat a variety of cancers.
The field of cancer immunotherapy is advancing at an unprecedented rate, prompting the Foundation to establish a Cancer Immunotherapy funding campaign to add to the momentum. We aim to raise $5 million to fund research projects that will develop focused ultrasound immune-based therapies. Since the Foundation’s Cancer Immunotherapy program began in 2016, we have received an increasing number of high quality investigator-initiated proposals. More than 20 research projects have been identified for funding, and this campaign will allow us to fund these as quickly as possible. For more information, contact Jessica Foley, PhD.
On June 15, Foundation staff took part in the Cancer Research Institute’s #WearWhite campaign. The initiative invites participants to wear white to stand for science and the search for immune-based cures. It also “echoes the hope immunotherapy can bring to patients in the darkness of their diagnosis.”
Carol Loomis has spent her career reporting on complex financial and business subjects for Fortune Magazine. In 2014, she retired as a senior editor-at-large after a 60-year career with the publication. After playing a role in the first mention of focused ultrasound in Fortune, she became a supporter of the technology’s potential. Learn how a personal memory and an interest in helping people led her to support the Foundation.
Each year, the Foundation produces a report outlining the state of focused ultrasound around the world. Read the 2018 State of the Field Report to learn about the dramatic upswing in the number of indications being researched and find out which two conditions dominate patient treatments worldwide.
On June 5, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam visited the Foundation and met with members of the Foundation’s Board and Council, donors, representatives from the University of Virginia, and members of the local media. At the meeting, Governor Northam said, “The reason that I am here to support what Neal and the Foundation are doing is that – whether it’s a glioblastoma or Alzheimer’s – we are on the cusp of finding cures for a lot of these disorders.”
Former CEO of Norfolk Southern and Amtrak, Charles W. “Wick” Moorman IV, has been elected to the Foundation's Board of Directors. “The work that the Foundation is doing to promote this technology, which has such wide-ranging potential to substantially improve peoples’ lives, is critically important, and I am delighted to be a part of it,” said Moorman.
Applications are now being accepted for this annual $75,000 cash award established in memory of Andrew Lockhart. The award is given to an investigator who demonstrates outstanding potential to contribute to advancing cancer treatment using focused ultrasound. In 2017, the prize was awarded to the University of Virginia’s Richard Price, PhD.
Several new professionals have recently joined the Foundation team. In April, Michael Broad signed on as the new Director of Global Relations and will help liaison with the global research community. Tony D’Alessio now leads the IT department as Information Technology Manager. Lastly, Deborah Heishman is our new Business Systems Analyst and Salesforce Administrator who will work to maintain the Foundation’s CRM and data tools.
The Foundation welcomes abstracts related to the use of image-guided focused ultrasound in preclinical research, clinical research, or technology development. Topics of interest include neurological indications; cancer and benign tumors; musculoskeletal and arthritic pain; cardiovascular conditions; women’s health; pediatrics; and biomechanisms including tissue ablation, drug delivery, immunomodulation, neuromodulation, and more.
This year’s symposium will include an impressive group of leaders in the field who will moderate presentations and discussions on their areas of expertise. The list of 46 includes international representatives from academia, industry, and government.
Device manufacturer Insightec recently announced that Medicare benefit coverage is available in ten states for focused ultrasound treatment of essential tremor, known as Neuravive. Currently, the treatment is covered in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. An additional six states – Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Michigan, and Missouri – will be added beginning July 1, 2018, and 38 others have begun the process toward coverage. The FDA approved focused ultrasound to treat essential tremor in July 2016.
The Foundation has recently learned that a small number of patients have had focused ultrasound treatment for their service-related prostate cancer covered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This isn’t a department-wide decision or even a Veterans Integrated Services Networks (VISN) wide decision. Rather, success has been patient driven and has occurred at the individual facility level.
On June 7, the Foundation’s Chief Medical Officer, Tim Meakem, MD, spoke to the Essential Tremor Support Group of Central Virginia. Meakem shared an update on focused ultrasound treatment, including recent publications on patient outcomes over time and the status of insurance reimbursement. He fielded questions on topics like the possibility of bilateral ablation and requirements for treatment. A member of the group, John Watterson, was one of the first 15 patients treated in the initial safety study of focused ultrasound for essential tremor at the University of Virginia.
The first patient has been treated in a clinical trial at the University of Virginia Health System exploring focused ultrasound to treat chronic trigeminal neuropathic pain. The trial is using Insightec’s Exablate Neuro system to assess the safety and initial effectiveness of using focused ultrasound to destroy a target in the brain implicated in transmitting craniofacial pain. Researchers caution that this study is not for the more common ailment, trigeminal neuralgia.
The Foundation’s Program Funding Committee has selected one proposal to receive funding for the 2nd quarter of 2018. Yuana Yuana, PhD, in the Department of Biomedical Technology at the University Medical Center Utrecht (The Netherlands), will study “Drug delivery strategies using drug-loaded extracellular vesicles generated by microbubble-assisted ultrasound.” The project proposes to improve the way that focused ultrasound plus microbubbles delivers drugs – by reaching cells that are farther from the vasculature using extracellular vesicles as carrier vehicles.
AUA’s 2018 annual meeting was held May 18-21 in San Francisco. Twelve scientific abstracts featured focused ultrasound technology, each around the theme of predicting or measuring outcomes after treatment. One significant highlight was Profound Medical’s presentation of initial data from their TULSA-PRO Ablation Clinical Trial.
This month, scientists who study focused ultrasound are making progress in brain applications and tumor treatment. In the brain, researchers are elucidating the mechanisms behind how focused ultrasound might be repairing cognitive function in mice with dementia. Others are working to expand our capabilities for monitoring the focused ultrasound procedure to open the blood-brain barrier. With tumor treatment, a Taiwanese group seeks to improve drug delivery to tumors by manipulating the ultrasound parameters.
Founded in 1989, Sonic Concepts began as an ultrasound transducer development consulting business. Today, the company develops and manufactures premium ultrasonic systems to the biomedical, industrial, marine, and research markets. In 2015, Kyle Morrison succeeded George Keilman as the President of the Bothell, Washington based company. We recently interviewed Morrison about Sonic Concepts’ current work and what he sees for the future of the company and the field of therapeutic ultrasound.
HistoSonics has closed its latest financing with additional investment from friends of the Foundation, facilitated by the new FUS Partners program. The round, led by Foundation board member and serial entrepreneur Fred Moll, solidly positions HistoSonics for future growth. CEO Mike Blue expressed his appreciation to the Foundation and his new investors, saying, “We are grateful for the additional support and are excited about the future.”
The FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) is now accepting applications for the FDA Innovation Challenge: Devices to Prevent and Treat Opioid Use Disorder. Applicants selected for the Challenge will work directly with the FDA to accelerate the development and eventual review of marketing applications for innovative products, similar to what occurs under the Breakthrough Devices Program. Learn more in an upcoming webinar and apply before September 30, 2018.