“Our trial investigates the use of focused ultrasound to open the BBB in patients with early-to-moderate Alzheimer's, to determine its safety and technical feasibility,” says Nir Lipsman, MD, co-principal investigator. “Results will help us plan future trials to establish what role focused ultrasound may play, whether alone or in conjunction with medical treatments, in the management of Alzheimer’s.”
A focused ultrasound pioneer who has treated more than 120 patients with a number of disorders, Pejman Ghanouni, MD, PhD, will serve as the Honorary President of the 6th International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound, October 21-25, 2018, in Reston, Virginia. “It’s an honor to be a part of the 2018 meeting. The field is still a tight-knit community, so to gather and catch up on the latest advances and techniques is an invaluable experience,” says Dr. Ghanouni.
On May 10, the Foundation hosted its biennial awareness event, inviting researchers from around the world to speak to friends of the Foundation and members of the community about the latest advances in the field of focused ultrasound. Presentation topics included blood-brain barrier opening for brain tumors, Alzheimer’s, and psychiatric disorders; pediatric tumors; pancreatic cancer; and cancer immunotherapy.
Foundation supporters Floyd D. Gottwald, Jr. and Bruce C. Gottwald each received the Outstanding Virginian Award in a ceremony at the University of Virginia on May 13. The two long-time business leaders share a rich history of philanthropic support.
On May 3, the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC, hosted a special screening of Argo as part of its “Popcorn and Politics” series. The 2012 film depicts Foundation Council member Tony Mendez’s remarkable role in the 1979 rescue of American hostages from Iran. Tony and his wife Jonna attended the screening, answered audience questions, and generously donated the evening’s proceeds to the Foundation.
A recently published case study for the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy examines the Foundation as a model for innovation and social entrepreneurship. The case provides background about the Foundation’s organization and its efforts to accelerate the development and adoption of a new medical technology. It also discusses future challenges in convincing the current healthcare paradigm to embrace a disruptive technology like focused ultrasound.
We recently welcomed three talented new staff members to the Foundation team. Wes Myhre is a social media and press relations specialist who will promote communications and development efforts. Executive Assistant Latibe Seidou is providing support in administration, business operations, and development. Finally, Diana Villalobos has taken on the role of Director of Global Relations and will be a liaison between the Foundation and the global community.
A new Exablate Neuro treatment site is now available for essential tremor patients. In late April, the first patient received focused ultrasound treatment at Penn Medicine. Led by neurosurgeon Gordon Baltuch, MD, PhD, neurologist Andres F. Deik, MD, and interventional radiologist Robert W. Hurst, MD, the center becomes the eighth location in the US to offer this treatment, which was FDA approved in 2016.
The University of Maryland School of Medicine held its annual gala in Baltimore on April 29. A focused ultrasound patient and advocate, Kimberly Spletter, co-chaired the event. “It was nice to be with the people who helped me so much,” recalls Kimberly. “It’s so important to me to get the word out about focused ultrasound and about the clinical trial so it can help others.”
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s Dr. Nir Lipsman is an early adopter of focused ultrasound. The neurosurgeon is looking to bring non-invasive solutions to patients as quickly and as safely as possible by collaborating with experts in neurodegenerative disease, psychiatric disorders, and oncology. This approach led him and his team to become the first to use focused ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier in an Alzheimer’s patient.
The Foundation has established an annual $75,000 cash award that will be given to an investigator who demonstrates outstanding potential to contribute to advancing cancer treatment using focused ultrasound. The Andrew J. Lockhart Memorial Prize was established and funded by Andrew’s family and friends, with the hope that research can contribute to new therapies for solid cancers.
University of Washington urologist George Schade, MD, has completed his Foundation-funded research project entitled “Evaluation of the Systemic Response to Boiling Histotripsy Treatment for Renal Carcinoma.” Besides confirming that boiling histotripsy could successfully ablate a predicted volume of kidney tumor cells within four weeks of treatment and allow the surrounding tissue to heal within eight weeks, the team also found a possible systemic immune effect.
After a year-long review process, the FDA and NIH have published the final version of “Clinical Trial E-Protocol Tool and Template Documents,” a comprehensive resource available to investigators who plan, organize, and complete clinical trials for medical research. The template is targeted to phase 2 and phase 3 NIH-funded studies requiring an investigational new drug or investigational device exemption. Its standard formatting will facilitate protocol review by regulators and institutional review boards by ensuring complete and consistently organized information that follows International Conference on Harmonization (ICH) E6 Good Clinical Practice guidelines.
The combination of focused ultrasound plus microbubbles or nanobubbles is allowing scientists to reach previously inaccessible parts of the brain and spinal cord. Can gene therapy stop or slow brain tumor development? If nerve growth factor reaches the spinal cord, could it repair damaged neurons? Finally, brain mapping with low-intensity focused ultrasound is the subject of a new study from the University of Virginia.
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco are testing new inside-out approaches for reaching pancreatic tumors. Could tiny, tubular endoscopic transducers be a solution for ablation therapies that could reduce tumor volume, lower pain, and prolong survival? See Theoretical Investigation of Transgastric and Intraductal Approaches for Ultrasound-Based Thermal Therapy of the Pancreas, now available in the Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have established a new billing code for focused ultrasound ablation of prostate tissue that will go into effect on July 1, 2017. The announcement was made by both EDAP-TMS and SonaCare Medical, the two companies whose devices are approved in the US.
Previously approved for only a 3.0T MRI scanner, the US FDA has now also approved Exablate Neuro to treat essential tremor patients using 1.5T MRIs. The approval could significantly expand the technology’s availability. "Being able to bring MR-guided focused ultrasound to hospitals that have 1.5T MRIs will enable more essential tremor patients to have access to this non-invasive treatment option," stated Maurice R. Ferré, MD, Insightec’s CEO and Chairman of the Board.
A new joint venture company, Theraclion China Co., Ltd., has been formed in Shenzhen to develop the Chinese market for Theraclion's Echopulse system. One million surgeries to excise benign thyroid nodules and 700,000 surgeries to remove breast fibroadenoma are performed annually in China, making the country the biggest addressable market for Theraclion products.
A new agreement between California-based MRI Interventions and Illinois-based Acoustic MedSystems creates a collaboration to develop real-time, MR-guided ultrasonic ablation therapies. Their initial focus will be on the treatment of pancreatic cancer, but the intent of the project is to further expand the capabilities of MRI Interventions’ MR-guided surgical platform.