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MRI-guided focused ultrasound for drug delivery and ablation of brain tumors

Nathan J Mcdannold

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Over the past 20 years, we and others developed the fundamentals of transcranial MRI-guided focused ultrasound (TcMRgFUS), a noninvasive technology that will have a profound impact on all aspects of clinical neuroscience. TcMRgFUS is a disruptive technology that can improve upon or replace existing treatments and enable therapies that are not possible today. It is a radical departure from current treatment methods and involves expertise from a broad range of disciplines. While the full potential that ultrasound can have for disorders of the central nervous system is not widely known, the transformational process already begun. Our aim is to establish such a program to accelerate and intensify the clinical translation of new TcMRgFUS applications with a proven potential during the lifetime of this grant. Such translation can only happen if the technology is fully-developed, demonstrated to be safe, and implemented in a final form for therapies with major clinical impact. We propose to develop a large-scale, five-year program that will shepherd TcMRgFUS therapies to clinical use for brain cancer. We have developed three projects that can have transform neurosurgery (non-thermal ablation of brain tumors) and neurooncology (targeted drug delivery of chemotherapy to brain metastases). For drug delivery, we will utilize low-energy FUS bursts to temporarily disrupt the blood-brain barrier, which overcomes the major singular limitation of using most drugs in the brain. In one project, we will develop and validate new methods to plan, guide, and evaluate this procedure. In the second, we have developed a plan to move one application of this technology, delivery of anti-cancer agents to breast cancer brain metastases, to the point where it is ready for safety and efficacy clinical trials. Finally, in the third projet, we will combine FUS and a microbubble agent to enable non-thermal ablation, a noninvasive alternative to surgery and radiosurgery. With this method, we can ablate tissue volumes practically anywhere in the brain without using ionizing radiation and without any limits on repeated treatments. At the end of the grant, we aim to have completed the large-scale work needed to move these game-changing TcMRgFUS applications to patients, paving the way to future broad application in treating brain tumors and other disorders in the central nervous system.

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