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Focused Ultrasound

October 23, 2014
From the September 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

So when I became aware of a technology that could impact current practices to a far greater extent, I understood the challenges ahead. About eight years ago, I was searching for effective ways to treat brain tumors without needing to open the skull or use radiation, and I learned about a nascent technology with tremendous potential — focused ultrasound. As I delved deeper, I quickly learned that the company developing the technology was underresourced. Meanwhile, other companies and laboratories across the world were independently researching the technology without the benefit of collaboration. Determined not to see this innovative technology languish through the same long process from R&D to widespread utilization, we created what we believe is the first philanthropy in the U.S. dedicated to advancing a medical technology — the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to accelerate the development and adoption of this noninvasive technology so that it can benefit patients in years rather than decades. And we believe that the technology will also be of tremendous benefit to the institutions and professionals providing care in the ACO model.

Focused Ultrasound – A non-invasive approach on the horizon
While focused ultrasound holds immense potential, the technology, for the most part, is in its infancy. Currently, it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for two indications – the treatment of symptomatic uterine fibroids and reducing the pain from bone metastases. This is merely the tip of the iceberg, with more than 40 potential applications that are in various stages of development in the U.S. and around the globe.

Focused ultrasound is steadily pushing its way to the forefront of noninvasive therapy. Two systems to treat prostate cancer are currently under FDA regulatory review. There is a pivotal trial ongoing at several U.S. centers using focused ultrasound to treat essential tremor, with earlier-phase clinical studies ongoing in brain tumors, Parkinson’s disease and OCD. There is great interest in using focused ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier and allow drugs to penetrate the brain and treat tumors. Researchers have also noted its potential to enable localized and targeted drug delivery–releasing drugs in potent concentrations to a specific point anywhere in the body while minimizing systemic delivery and toxicity. Focused ultrasound could be pivotal to the future of health care. But, we have a long way to go.

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