$3.1 Million Grant Backs Promising Focused Ultrasound Research to Treat Deadly Cerebral Cavernous Malformations

January 17, 2024 by

Richard Price and Petr Tvrdik UVA

Richard J. Price, PhD (left), Petr Tvrdik, PhD

University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers have received $3.1 million from the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute to pioneer the use of focused soundwaves to improve treatment of debilitating cerebral cavernous malformations (CCMs).

These vascular lesions, often called cavernomas, are overgrowths of tiny blood vessels called capillaries in the brain or spinal cord. The growths can cause seizures, severe headaches, paralysis and more. If they trigger bleeding in the brain, they can be deadly.

Surgery, when possible, remains the primary treatment option for symptomatic cavernomas. But UVA Health researchers led by Richard J. Price, PhD, and Petr Tvrdik, PhD, are seeking to create a powerful new method to deliver drugs to the lesions. Their approach combines the power of focused ultrasound with tiny microbubbles to allow drugs to reach lesions and the surrounding “microenvironment” in a way now impossible.

“Many CCM patients are in desperate need of more-effective treatment options. Some patients have surgically inaccessible lesions that can only be treated with radiation, but such treatments can have strong side effects and take a long time to show efficacy,” said Price, co-director of UVA Health’s Focused Ultrasound Cancer Immunotherapy Center. “We ultimately wish to treat these lesions non-invasively with biologic drugs and gene therapies, but these therapies are relatively large in size and do not penetrate well into brain tissue. Low-intensity focused ultrasound can be steered almost anywhere in the brain. It gives us a unique opportunity to precisely deliver such advanced therapies right to the CCM.”

Read more in the UVA Health newsroom.

Filed Under: Faculty, Research