World’s First Focused Ultrasound Cancer Immunotherapy Center

By News Release


UVA Health, in partnership with the Charlottesville-based Focused Ultrasound Center, are launching the Focused Ultrasound Cancer Immunotherapy Center, the world’s first center dedicated specifically to advancing a focused ultrasound and cancer immunotherapy treatment approach.

Immunotherapy, which harnesses the immune system to battle cancer, is the most important breakthrough in cancer treatment in decades. However, it has been proven effective for only 20% to 40% of patients. But combining immunotherapy with focused ultrasound – a game-changing soundwave technology – has been found to overcome existing limitations of immunotherapy and may open new fronts in the war against many different forms of cancer, from breast cancer to brain tumors.

The center will cement the University of Virginia’s place as the preeminent site for translational research, education and patient care using the cutting-edge combination of focused ultrasound technology and cancer immunotherapy.

“We are excited to announce this powerful multidisciplinary and interdepartmental collaboration effort with the Focused Ultrasound Foundation and the Commonwealth of Virginia to expand treatment options for our cancer patients in this advancing field,” said K Craig Kent, MD, Chief Executive Officer of UVA Health and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at UVA. “Our combined initial investment of $8 million will purchase state-of-the-art focused ultrasound devices, create new jobs to hire faculty and staff, and fund laboratory research studies and clinical trials.”

“Focused ultrasound is proving to enhance the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy throughout the cancer immunity cycle in a variety of ways,” said Neal F Kassell, MD, Founder and Chairman of the Foundation, which works in partnership with the Cancer Research Institute and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy to fund focused ultrasound cancer immunotherapy research around the world. “It can stimulate the body’s immune response to

convert immunologically ‘cold’ tumors – such as most breast cancers – into ‘hot’ tumors, making more patients responders. It can also enhance the delivery of immunotherapeutics to tumors, and it may also augment the effectiveness of immunotherapeutics, enabling more robust and prolonged response to drugs and decreasing the doses needed.”

The center is designed to capitalize on UVA’s strengths – including cancer immunotherapy, focused ultrasound and medical imaging – and to leverage the expertise of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation to better understand focused ultrasound’s ability to improve a patient's immune response to their cancer. The center will aim to understand how to optimize the antitumor effect of focused ultrasound, develop new focused ultrasound technologies, and improve quality of life and survival for patients with a variety of cancers while enhancing access to cutting-edge care and reducing costs.

The center will be led by Co-Directors Craig Slingluff, MD, Joseph Helms Farrow Professor of Surgery and Director of UVA Cancer Center’s Human Immune Therapy Center; David R Brenin, MD, the MC Wilhelm Professor in Diseases of the Breast and Division Chief of Breast

and Melanoma Surgery at UVA Health; and Richard Price, PhD, Lawrence R Quarles Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UVA.