Monday, October 17, 2011

HIFU Symposium: Sheikh Zayed Institute's model of collaboration comes to life

I'm often asked to give examples of the types of collaborations that the Sheikh Zayed Institute was intended to facilitate. A few weeks ago, I participated in what I consider a model collaboration, a symposium on high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). The symposium included the NIH Clinical Center's research program in HIFU, the Institute scientists and doctors, and division chiefs from several of the hospital's clinical divisions, including Oncology, Fetal Medicine, and General Surgery, to discuss HIFU's promise and limitations for the pediatric setting.

High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a technique growing in popularity in the adult population. It is a non-invasive procedure that involves focusing ultrasound energy into a small target zone (less than centimeter size) to destroy tissue, such as tumors or cysts. Not only does the approach not require an incision, it can also be used to target tissue that can't be easily reached by traditional surgical methods.

“Our work to date shows the promise of this technology in moving from the minimally invasive to the non-invasive, and we think that HIFU could be an incredible tool in pediatrics to tackle some of the current access challenges in surgery and image guided therapies, but at the same also reduce radiation exposure, both really key concerns in surgery for children," said Brad Wood, MD, Director of the NIH's Center for Interventional Oncology.

The level of conversation made this symposium a different type of meeting. Instead of standard scientific presentations, the format was designed to encourage constant feedback. The institute's investigators, the NIH scientists, and the clinical experts who touch these issues every day worked through each presentation. At the end of the meeting, all came away with a unique understanding of the need for HIFU applications in children, the challenges that pediatrics present to this treatment, and the promise of these HIFU applications in children.

"One in five children will die from their cancer. Of the survivors, 30 percent will have chronic complications", said Jeffrey Dome, MD, Chief of the Division of Oncology and McKnew Professor of Pediatric Oncology at Children's National. "We need to reduce the treatment failures and the number of complications from treatment. HIFU, by reducing radiation exposure and treatment time could really impact the places where our traditional treatment modalities haven't been as successful."

Peter Kim, vice president of the institute, summed up the overall shared goals of the group--finding new ways to treat children as effectively as possible. "There are few places where even surgeons advocate for the application of non-invasive methods like HIFU, but it shows that everyone here is truly focused on the most important thing: how to best help children."

Much work remains to make bring HIFU into pediatric clinical practice, but a partnership, modeled along the lines of the HIFU symposium between scientists, bioengineers, and clinicians, would speed the development of this technology and help us impact more kids in the near future.

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