Focused Ultrasound Strategies for Brain Tumor Therapy


Adomas Bunevicius, Nathan Judson McDannold, and Alexandra J Golby. 2020. “Focused Ultrasound Strategies for Brain Tumor Therapy.” Oper Neurosurg (Hagerstown), 19, 1, Pp. 9-18. Copy at


BACKGROUND: A key challenge in the medical treatment of brain tumors is the limited penetration of most chemotherapeutic agents across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) into the tumor and the infiltrative margin around the tumor. Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a promising tool to enhance the delivery of chemotherapeutic agents into brain tumors. OBJECTIVE: To review the mechanism of FUS, preclinical evidence, and clinical studies that used low-frequency FUS for a BBB opening in gliomas. METHODS: Literature review. RESULTS: The potential of externally delivered low-intensity ultrasound for a temporally and spatially precise and predictable disruption of the BBB has been investigated for over a decade, yielding extensive preclinical literature demonstrating that FUS can disrupt the BBB in a spatially targeted and temporally reversible manner. Studies in animal models documented that FUS enhanced the delivery of numerous chemotherapeutic and investigational agents across the BBB and into brain tumors, including temozolomide, bevacizumab, 1,3-bis (2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea, doxorubicin, viral vectors, and cells. Chemotherapeutic interventions combined with FUS slowed tumor progression and improved animal survival. Recent advances of MRgFUS systems allow precise, temporally and spatially controllable, and safe transcranial delivery of ultrasound energy. Initial clinical evidence in glioma patients has shown the efficacy of MRgFUS in disrupting the BBB, as demonstrated by an enhanced gadolinium penetration. CONCLUSION: Thus far, a temporary disruption of the BBB followed by the administration of chemotherapy has been both feasible and safe. Further studies are needed to determine the actual drug delivery, including the drug distribution at a tissue-level scale, as well as effects on tumor growth and patient prognosis.
Last updated on 07/13/2020