Breast Cancer Focused Ultrasound Immunotherapy
Breast cancer serves as the leading cause of mortality among women worldwide. To date, there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer, and a 5-year overall survival rate of merely 22% poses dismal patient prognosis. High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a non-invasive method by which thermal energy can be delivered at high, localized doses to tumor tissue, not only causing tumor cell death while preserving the integrity of sensitive surrounding tissues, but also perturbing the tumor microenvironment, microvasculature, and lymphatics located in the peri-ablative region. The application of HIFU ablation has been demonstrated to mediate increased tumor antigen presentation, heat shock protein release, cytokine release, and upregulation of other mechanisms that ultimately bolster systemic CD8+ T cell response to the tumor. Thus, it is anticipated that HIFU can effectively serve as an auto-vaccine for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. We are exploring the use of ultrasound-guided HIFU as a technique for stimulating tumor-specific immune responses that can ultimately interface with additional therapeutic interventions such as checkpoint blockade and targeted chemotherapy. Key partners on these studies include Dr. Timothy Bullock (UVa Pathology), Dr. Cyril Lafon (INSERM), Dr. Mark Kester (UVa Pharmacology), and Theraclion.