At 6 a.m. on a spring morning in 2021, Michael Butler, a jovial and lively 63-year-old man, is ushered into a special MRI room at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto. The sales manager and retired motorcyclist is hooked up to an IV and dressed in a hospital gown. Aside from a white goatee, his head is freshly shorn, a style he’s sported since undergoing a craniotomy to remove as much as possible from an aggressive plum-sized brain tumor three months earlier.
Now he is part of a clinical trial testing a new method of delivering drugs directly to the brain, with a technique called focused ultrasound. Many experts believe this therapeutic technology will one day revolutionize brain medicine for a range of uncurable or hard-to-cure diseases, from brain cancer to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS.
In Butler’s case, the procedure is designed to deliver drugs that will attempt to destroy any cancer cells left behind after his operation. Complete removal by surgery was not possible without severely damaging the rest of his brain. Focused ultrasound is her only chance to prolong life with glioblastoma, a catastrophic form of cancer that is incredibly difficult to treat.