Historic clinical trial to focus on use of MRI-guided focused ultrasound to open blood-brain barrier

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) are planning to study the ability of MRI-guided focused ultrasound to open a brain cancer patient’s blood-brain barrier. This will be the first clinical trial of its kind in the United States.

“The ability to temporarily disrupt the blood-brain barrier without causing tissue damage has the potential to dramatically alter the landscape of drug delivery to the brain for many diseases,” Graeme F. Woodworth, MD, professor of neurosurgery at UMSOM, said in a University of Maryland news release. “If successful, this approach would allow us to use chemotherapy and other therapies in the brain in ways that are currently not possible.”

The clinical trial is expected to include 15 brain cancer patients from the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Microscopic inert gas-filled bubbles” will be injected into each patient’s bloodstream. MRI then helps the doctors target a specific area of the tumor with ultrasound. Once opened, the blood-brain barrier is “disrupted” for four to six hours before returning to its normal state.

“MRI-guided focused ultrasound holds great promise in treating a variety of medical conditions, from cancer to Parkinson’s disease,” E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, dean of USMOM, said in the same news release. “Our physician-scientists are leading major research studies and are at the forefront of efforts to determine how this new technology can be used to provide better treatments for patients.”