Funded Projects

The US-based Focused Ultrasound Foundation is currently funding important research in the UK. Learn more about these projects below.


Pancreatic Cancer,

Measure Immune Response Induced by Focused Ultrasound Ablation for Pancreatic Cancer

Led by Dr Srikanth Reddy at the University of Oxford

Looking into the immune analysis of blood samples from patients undergoing high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) treatment as part of an ongoing, separately funded clinical trial to treat locally advanced pancreatic cancers that are not suitable for surgery. Blood samples are drawn before and after HIFU procedure to gauge immune system response. This is an early phase study to provide preliminary data to power future studies.


Pelvic Cancer

HIFU-LATE Study: A Phase II Feasibility/Efficacy Study of High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound in Late Stage Pelvic Cancer

Led by Dr Jamie Murphy at St. Mary’s Hospital, London

This 30-patient clinical trial is investigating focused ultrasound ablation in patients with late-stage cancers located in the pelvic region. The primary goal of the study is improved quality of life, reduced symptoms, and pain relief. The study team will also measure any changes in tumor size on an MRI machine, three to four weeks following the focused ultrasound procedure.


Sarcoma, Desmoid Tumours

SarcAblate: A Pilot Study in High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Ablation of Soft Tissue Sarcoma and Small Symptomatic Intra-Abdominal Desmoid Tumours

Led by Dr Paul Lyon at University of Oxford / Churchill Hospital

This clinical trial is investigating focused ultrasound ablation in 12-16 patients with either soft-tissue sarcoma or unresectable, symptomatic desmoid tumors. Participants will undergo focused ultrasound in an outpatient procedure and go home the same day. The study endpoints are treatment safety and feasibility of focused ultrasound ablation of these tumors.


Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, Pediatrics

Ultrasound-Guided High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (USgHIFU) for the Treatment of Early Gestation Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS)

Led by Dr Christoph Lees at Imperial College London

Twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is a pregnancy condition in which one twin leeches or “steals” blood supply from the other. The donor twin risks malnourishment and organ failure, while the recipient twin receives too much blood and is susceptible to overwork of the heart and other cardiac complications. It is estimated that TTTS occurs in up to 3,000 pregnancies per year in the UK.

This clinical trial will recruit up to 13 patients with TTTS in the second trimester and will target and occlude the vascular malformations causing disproportional blood flow between the twins. The goal of the study is to demonstrate treatment safety and efficacy, in terms of successful vascular occlusion.



Disrupting Therapeutic Outcomes in Glioblastoma: Combining Targeted Radionuclide and Ultrasound Stimulated Microbubble Therapies

Led by Professor Gail ter Haar at the Institute of Cancer Research

Glioblastoma multiformae (GBM) is a universally fatal form of brain cancer that is difficult to treat because, even after removing the tumors, cancerous cells extend beyond the MRI-visible tumor and are entwined with healthy brain tissue.

This study will use focused ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in the lab and assess enhanced delivery of a drug designed to target the cells that remain after surgery. If successful, future studies will explore the efficacy of therapeutic delivery in combination with focused ultrasound BBB disruption.


Pediatric Neuroblastoma, Immunotherapy

Ultrasound-Enhanced CAR-T Cell Immunotherapy of Pediatric Neuroblastoma

Led by Professor Gail ter Haar at the Institute of Cancer Research

CAR-T cells are genetically modified immune cells that have been shown to be effective against blood-borne malignancies but lack efficacy in soft tissue tumors. One reason for this is because the cells cannot cross the blood vessel walls in adequate concentrations.

The research team is investigating whether histotripsy can disrupt the vessel wall and thus enhance uptake sufficiently to provide an effective treatment for pediatric neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that originates from nerve cells, usually in the abdomen.


Back Pain

Ultrasound-Triggered Gelation to Treat Disogenic Lower Back Pain

Led by Dr Michael Gray at the University of Oxford

Discogenic back pain is caused by a damaged intervertebral disc. The team at Oxford, in collaboration with Imperial College London, has developed expertise in ultrasound-responsive, plastic-based materials called hydrogels which, when cured, have a stiffness similar to that of an intervertebral disc.

While hydrogels are traditionally cured outside the body for surgical implantation, this project aims to inject the hydrogel in its liquid state and then use ultrasound to cure the hydrogel with focal heating. This preclinical study will help guide subsequent projects to address regulatory requirements for staging a first-in-human clinical study.


Brain Technical Research

Mapping of Antibody and Liposome Permeability into the Brain Following Focused Ultrasound Treatment through T1/T2w DCE

Led by Dr Antonios Pouliopoulos at King’s College Hospital, London

While blood-brain barrier (BBB) opening with focused ultrasound has been shown to allow therapeutics to reach brain tissue, it is challenging to quantify the improvement in drug delivery through the opened BBB.

This study is attempting to directly quantify delivery of antibody and liposome-based therapies by attaching MR contrast agents directly to the delivered therapeutics. Since therapeutics crossing the BBB are linked to MRI contrast, standard MRI scans that highlight MRI contrast agents will be able to directly quantify therapeutic delivery.


Canine Urinary Tract Tumors

Veterinary Treatment of Urinary Tract Tumors in Dogs

Led by Dr Gerry Polton at Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

This two-phase study will first test treatment parameters in a preclinical model before focused ultrasound ablation will be used to treat 14 dogs with newly diagnosed muscle-invasive bladder tumors. Diagnostic ultrasound will be used to assess tumor ablation and will be assessed immediately after treatment. Owners will also help assess any changes to the dogs’ quality of life.