MR-guided focused ultrasound enhances delivery of trastuzumab to Her2-positive brain metastases

Sci Transl Med. 2021 Oct 13;13(615):eabj4011. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abj4011. Epub 2021 Oct 13.


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is an important factor limiting the effectiveness of central nervous system (CNS) therapeutics. MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a noninvasive, spatially precise technology that enhances drug delivery across a temporarily permeable BBB. However, despite promising preclinical data, successful drug delivery has yet to be proven in human patients. In this study, we provide primary evidence of enhanced brain penetration of trastuzumab with MRgFUS in patients with Her2-positive breast cancer and brain metastases (NCT03714243). Four patients with progressive intracranial disease and stable systemic disease were enrolled in a single-arm open-labeled study. Twenty treatments combining transcranial MRgFUS with concomitant standard-of-care intravenous trastuzumab-based therapies were administered as outpatient procedures. The primary outcome was safety, and there were no treatment-related serious adverse events. The efficacy of trastuzumab delivery was demonstrated using 111In-BzDTPA-NLS-trastuzumab SPECT imaging. The standardized uptake value ratio (SUVR) of MRgFUS-treated lesions increased, on average, by 101 ± 71%, compared to −18 ± 26% in control lesions. MRgFUS enhanced drug uptake in 87 ± 17% of sonicated voxels (>20% increase in SUVR), with up to a 450% voxel-wise increase detected. Control lesions had 8 ± 8% voxels with >20% increase in SUVR. With treatment, unidimensional tumor measurements decreased by 19 ± 12%. This study provides first-in-human evidence of noninvasive, spatially targeted monoclonal antibody delivery across the BBB using MRgFUS, demonstrating the promise of this technology for a broad range of CNS diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms*
  • Breast Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab / therapeutic use
  • Ultrasonography


  • Receptor, ErbB-2
  • Trastuzumab

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