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November 9, 2015

INSIGHTEC is investigating the use of MR Guided Focused Ultrasound technology to temporarily open the blood brain barrier. In a current study, Researchers at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto have succeeded to non-invasively open the blood-brain barrier (BBB), using the Exablate Neuro platform, to allow a more effective delivery of life-saving therapies, such as chemotherapy, into a patient’s malignant brain tumor.


The human body has a protective barrier that restricts the passage of substances from the bloodstream into the brain, protecting it from toxic materials. This barrier also prevents the delivery of essential medication to reach the brain.


The research team infused a chemotherapy drug along with tiny, microscopic bubbles, into the bloodstream of a patient with a malignant brain tumor. The microbubbles are smaller than red blood cells and pass harmlessly through blood circulation to the brain. Ultrasound waves are focused at the target tumor causing these microbubbles to repeatedly compress, expand and vibrate, eventually loosening the tight junctions of the cells. Once the blood brain barrier is opened, the chemotherapy can flow through into the targeted regions.


“The blood-brain barrier (BBB) has been a persistent obstacle to delivering valuable therapies to treat disease such as tumors,” says Dr. Todd Mainprize, principal investigator of the study and Neurosurgeon in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “We are encouraged that we were able to temporarily open this barrier in a patient to deliver chemotherapy directly to the brain tumor.”


“Passing through the blood-brain barrier successfully in a localized manner has been virtually unattainable and a long-sought after goal. Temporarily opening this barrier with MRI-guided focused ultrasound technology is a major advancement for neuroscience,” said Kobi Vortman, PhD, INSIGHTEC’s Founder and CEO. “This new advancement has the potential to enable treatments of a wide variety of neurological disorders including brain tumors, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy,” he emphasized.


“This is a very important step in the development of MR-guided focused ultrasound technology,” says Eyal Zadicario, VP R&D and Director of Neuro Programs at INSIGHTEC. “Exablate Neuro was developed to deliver ultrasound energy through the skull and ablate tissue that is deep in the brain. In the current study, Exablate Neuro is used in a different manner, where the goal is not to thermally ablate tissue but preserve it and allow local and temporal disruption of the BBB. We will continue to push the technology into new clinical applications that can have significant impact where it matters most – to patients.”


“Breaching this barrier opens up a new frontier in treating brain disorders,” said Neal Kassell, MD, Chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. “We are encouraged by the momentum building for the use of focused ultrasound to non-invasively deliver therapies for a number of brain disorders.”   


This patient treatment is part of a pilot study to investigate the feasibility, safety and preliminary efficacy of focused ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier to deliver chemotherapy to brain tumors.  Up to 10 patients are participating in the study and they were already scheduled for traditional neurosurgery to remove parts of their brain tumors.


Funding for the study has been provided by the Focused Ultrasound Foundation and INSIGHTEC is its regulatory sponsor.

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