2016 Focused Ultrasound Foundation Symposium: Impacting Patients’ Lives

The phrase “at the tipping point” accurately describes the spirit at the 5th International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound, which was held August 28- September 1 in North Bethesda, Maryland (USA). With presentations spanning technical, pre-clinical, and clinical results in the field, there was clear enthusiasm in the research that has reached the point of impacting patient lives.

Leading off the conference’s Brain Day, Dr. Jeff Elias (University of Virginia, USA) discussed the recently published pivotal study using focused ultrasound (FUS) for treatment of essential tremor .This non-invasive, radiation-free technique creates a very precise lesion deep in the brain with no incisions, and patients had immediate, sustained improvement in their symptoms.

Following this discussion were two preliminary reports by Dr. Menashe Zaaroor (Rambam Medical Center) and Dr. Aaron Bond (University of Virginia, USA) about using a similar approach to combat movement disorders of Parkinson’s Disease. The honorary president of the Symposium, Dr. Jin Woo Chang (Yonsei University, Republic of Korea), concluded the session with positive initial results in using FUS to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Could FUS be the low risk, radiation free treatment for prostate cancer? Dr. Scionti’s results suggest this is possible.

In addition to the excitement in the use of FUS to treat intracranial disorders, there were many other clinical results with widespread applications to human care.

Dr. Carrie Rochman (University of Virginia, USA) related the successful use of FUS for breast fibroadenomas, which may help clear the path toward treating breast cancer, and Dr. Matthew Bucknor (University of California-San Francisco, USA) discussed the positive results he has seen using FUS on desmoid tumors.

For many years, there have been numerous perspectives on treating prostate cancer, with the current recommendations for non-aggressive cancer being limited to observation, due to the severity of side effects (incontinence and impotence) that frequently occur.  Dr. Stephen Scionti (Vituro Health Scionti Prostate Center, USA)) showed how FUS can be used to achieve excellent prostate tumor control with virtually non-existent occurrence of these side effects.

Could FUS be the low risk, radiation free treatment for prostate cancer? Dr. Scionti’s results suggest this is possible. In addition to FUS as an ablative tool, there is much interest, as discussed by Dr. Franco Orsi (Instituto Europeo di Oncologia, Italy), surrounding the technology’s potential to enhance immunotherapy for a range of cancers.

Even with all of these encouraging results, the “holy grail” for FUS may still be in front of us. As Mr. John Grisham spoke about in his free book, The Tumor, the treatment of devastating brain tumors could be the greatest achievement for FUS. This research continues, and one approach is to use FUS to temporarily open the blood brain barrier (BBB), which allows therapeutic agents to gain access to the tumor.

One approach is to use FUS to temporarily open the blood brain barrier (BBB), which allows therapeutic agents to gain access to the tumor.

Dr. Nir Lipsman (Sunnybrook Research Institute, Canada) discussed the first human case report of BBB opening, and Dr. Alexandre Carpentier (Sorbonne University, France) discussed how he is using an implantable FUS transmitter for BBB opening in study patients in France.

After Mr. Grisham spoke about The Tumor, he stayed for more than an hour to sign books for the attendees. He has affirmed that The Tumor is the most important book that he has ever written.

Many of the abstracts presented at the meeting were published in the Journal of Therapeutic Ultrasound, which is the official Journal of the International Society of Therapeutic Ultrasound, the Korean Society of Therapeutic Ultrasound, and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. To learn more about FUS or the additional content of the meeting, see the FUSF website or the Symposium website.

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