Professional Education

  • Ph.D., Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris, France, Biomedical Engineering (2013)
  • M.S., Denis Diderot University, Paris, France, Physical Acoustics (2009)
  • B.S., Denis Diderot University, Paris, France, Physics (2007)


All Publications

  • Tumor-specific delivery of gemcitabine with activatable liposomes. Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society Tucci, S. T., Kheirolomoom, A., Ingham, E. S., Mahakian, L. M., Tam, S. M., Foiret, J., Hubbard, N. E., Borowsky, A. D., Baikoghli, M., Cheng, R. H., Ferrara, K. W. 2019


    Gemcitabine delivery to pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is limited by poor pharmacokinetics, dense fibrosis and hypo-vascularization. Activatable liposomes, with drug release resulting from local heating, enhance serum stability and circulation, and the released drug retains the ability to diffuse within the tumor. A limitation of liposomal gemcitabine has been the low loading efficiency. To address this limitation, we used the superior solubilizing potential of copper (II) gluconate to form a complex with gemcitabine at copper:gemcitabine (1:4). Thermosensitive liposomes composed of DPPC:DSPC:DSPE-PEG2k (80:15:5, mole%) then reached 12 wt% loading, 4-fold greater than previously reported values. Cryo transmission electron microscopy confirmed the presence of a liquid crystalline gemcitabine‑copper mixture. The optimized gemcitabine liposomes released 60% and 80% of the gemcitabine within 1 and 5 min, respectively, at 42 °C. Liposomal encapsulation resulted in a circulation half-life of ~2 h in vivo (compared to reported circulation of 16 min for free gemcitabine in mice), and free drug was not detected within the plasma. The resulting gemcitabine liposomes were efficacious against both murine breast cancer and pancreatic cancer in vitro. Three repeated treatments of activatable gemcitabine liposomes plus ultrasound hyperthermia regressed or eliminated tumors in the neu deletion model of murine breast cancer with limited toxicity, enhancing survival when compared to treatment with gemcitabine alone. With 5% of the free gemcitabine dose (5 rather than 100 mg/kg), tumor growth was suppressed to the same degree as gemcitabine. Additionally, in a more aggressive tumor model of murine pancreatic cancer, liposomal gemcitabine combined with local hyperthermia induced cell death and regions of apoptosis and necrosis.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jconrel.2019.07.014

    View details for PubMedID 31301340

  • Localized nanodelivery combined with immunotherapy promotes curative anti-tumor responses in a murine breast cancer model Kheirolomoom, A., Silvestrini, M. T., Ingham, E. S., Mahakian, L. M., Tam, S. M., Tumbale, S. K., Foiret, J., Hubbard, N. E., Borowsky, A. D., Murphy, W. J., Ferrara, K. W. AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH. 2019
  • Activatable nanodelivery of high payload gemcitabine augments therapeutic efficacy in murine breast and pancreatic cancer models Tucci, S. T., Kheirolomoom, A., Ingham, E. S., Mahakian, L. M., Tam, S. M., Foiret, J., Hubbard, N. E., Borowsky, A. D., Baikoghli, M., Cheng, R., Ferrara, K. W. AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH. 2019
  • Combining activatable nanodelivery with immunotherapy in a murine breast cancer model JOURNAL OF CONTROLLED RELEASE Kheirolomoom, A., Silvestrini, M. T., Ingham, E. S., Mahakian, L. M., Tam, S. M., Tumbale, S. K., Foiret, J., Hubbard, N. E., Borowsky, A. D., Ferrara, K. W. 2019; 303: 42–54
  • Combining activatable nanodelivery with immunotherapy in a murine breast cancer model. Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society Kheirolomoom, A., Silvestrini, M. T., Ingham, E. S., Mahakian, L. M., Tam, S. M., Tumbale, S. K., Foiret, J., Hubbard, N. E., Borowsky, A. D., Ferrara, K. W. 2019


    A successful chemotherapy-immunotherapy solid-tumor protocol should accomplish the following goals: debulk large tumors, release tumor antigen for cross-presentation and cross-priming, release cancer-suppressive cytokines and enhance anti-tumor immune cell populations. Thermally-activated drug delivery particles have the potential to synergize with immunotherapeutics to accomplish these goals; activation can release chemotherapy within bulky solid tumors and can enhance response when combined with immunotherapy. We set out to determine whether a single protocol, combining locally-activated chemotherapy and agonist immunotherapy, could accomplish these goals and yield a potentially translational therapy. For effective delivery of free doxorubicin to tumors with minimal toxicity, we stabilized doxorubicin with copper in temperature-sensitive liposomes that rapidly release free drug in the vasculature of cancer lesions upon exposure to ultrasound-mediated hyperthermia. We found that in vitro exposure of tumor cells to hyperthermia and doxorubicin resulted in immunogenic cell death and the local release of type I interferons across murine cancer cell lines. Following intravenous injection, local activation of the liposomes within a single tumor released doxorubicin and enhanced cross-presentation of a model antigen at distant tumor sites. While a variety of protocols achieved a complete response in >50% of treated mice, the complete response rate was greatest (90%) when 1 week of immunotherapy priming preceded a single activatable chemotherapeutic administration. While repeated chemotherapeutic delivery reduced local viable tumor, the complete response rate and a subset of tumor immune cells were also reduced. Taken together, the results suggest that activatable chemotherapy can enhance adjuvant immunotherapy; however, in a murine model the systemic adaptive immune response was greatest with a single administration of chemotherapy.

    View details for PubMedID 30978432

  • Nonviral ultrasound-mediated gene delivery in small and large animal models. Nature protocols Bez, M., Foiret, J., Shapiro, G., Pelled, G., Ferrara, K. W., Gazit, D. 2019


    Ultrasound-mediated gene delivery (sonoporation) is a minimally invasive, nonviral and clinically translatable method of gene therapy. This method offers a favorable safety profile over that of viral vectors and is less invasive as compared with other physical gene delivery approaches (e.g., electroporation). We have previously used sonoporation to overexpress transgenes in different skeletal tissues in order to induce tissue regeneration. Here, we provide a protocol that could easily be adapted to address various other targets of tissue regeneration or additional applications, such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. This protocol describes how to prepare, conduct and optimize ultrasound-mediated gene delivery in both a murine and a porcine animal model. The protocol includes the preparation of a microbubble-DNA mix and in vivo sonoporation under ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound-mediated gene delivery can be accomplished within 10 min. After DNA delivery, animals can be followed to monitor gene expression, protein secretion and other transgene-specific outcomes, including tissue regeneration. This procedure can be accomplished by a competent graduate student or technician with prior experience in ultrasound imaging or in performing in vivo procedures.

    View details for PubMedID 30804568

  • Simultaneous Axial Multifocal Imaging Using a Single Acoustical Transmission: A Practical Implementation IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON ULTRASONICS FERROELECTRICS AND FREQUENCY CONTROL Ilovitsh, A., Ilovitsh, T., Foiret, J., Stephens, D. N., Ferrara, K. W. 2019; 66 (2): 273–84


    Standard ultrasound imaging techniques rely on sweeping a focused beam across a field of view; however, outside the transmission focal depth, image resolution and contrast are degraded. High-quality deep tissue in vivo imaging requires focusing the emitted field at multiple depths, yielding high-resolution and high-contrast ultrasound images but at the expense of a loss in frame rate. Recent developments in ultrasound technologies have led to user-programmable systems, which enable real-time dynamic control over the phase and apodization of each individual element in the imaging array. In this paper, we present a practical implementation of a method to achieve simultaneous axial multifoci using a single acoustical transmission. Our practical approach relies on the superposition of axial multifoci waveforms in a single transmission. The delay in transmission between different elements is set such that pulses constructively interfere at multiple focal depths. The proposed method achieves lateral resolution similar to successive focusing, but with an enhanced frame rate. The proposed method uses standard dynamic receive beamforming, identical to two-way focusing, and does not require additional postprocessing. Thus, the method can be implemented in real time on programmable ultrasound systems that allow different excitation signals for each element. The proposed method is described analytically and validated by laboratory experiments in phantoms and ex vivo biological samples.

    View details for DOI 10.1109/TUFFC.2018.2885080

    View details for Web of Science ID 000458775800003

    View details for PubMedID 30530361

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6375789

  • Enhanced microbubble contrast agent oscillation following 250kHz insonation. Scientific reports Ilovitsh, T., Ilovitsh, A., Foiret, J., Caskey, C. F., Kusunose, J., Fite, B. Z., Zhang, H., Mahakian, L. M., Tam, S., Butts-Pauly, K., Qin, S., Ferrara, K. W. 2018; 8 (1): 16347


    Microbubble contrast agents are widely used in ultrasound imaging and therapy, typically with transmission center frequencies in the MHz range. Currently, an ultrasound center frequency near 250kHz is proposed for clinical trials in which ultrasound combined with microbubble contrast agents is applied to open the blood brain barrier, since at this low frequency focusing through the human skull to a predetermined location can be performed with reduced distortion and attenuationcompared to higher frequencies. However, the microbubble vibrational response has not yet been carefully evaluated at this low frequency (an order of magnitude below the resonance frequency of these contrast agents). In the past, it was assumed that encapsulated microbubble expansion is maximized near the resonance frequency and monotonically decreases with decreasing frequency. Our results indicated that microbubble expansion was enhanced for 250kHz transmission as compared with the 1MHz center frequency. Following 250kHz insonation, microbubble expansion increased nonlinearly with increasing ultrasonic pressure, and was accurately predicted by either the modified Rayleigh-Plesset equation for a clean bubble or the Marmottant model of a lipid-shelledmicrobubble. The expansion ratio reached 30-fold with 250kHz at a peak negative pressure of 400kPa, as compared to a measured expansion ratio of 1.6 fold for 1MHz transmission at a similar peak negative pressure. Further, the range of peak negative pressure yielding stable cavitation in vitro was narrow (~100kPa) for the 250kHz transmission frequency. Blood brain barrier opening using in vivo transcranial ultrasound in mice followed the same trend as the in vitro experiments, and the pressure range for safe and effective treatment was 75-150kPa. For pressures above 150kPa, inertial cavitation and hemorrhage occurred. Therefore, we conclude that (1) at this low frequency, and for the large oscillations, lipid-shelled microbubbles can be approximately modeled as clean gas microbubbles and (2) the development of safe and successful protocols for therapeutic delivery to the brain utilizing 250kHz or a similar center frequency requires consideration of the narrow pressure window between stable and inertial cavitation.

    View details for PubMedID 30397280

  • Imaging beyond ultrasonically-impenetrable objects SCIENTIFIC REPORTS Ilovitsh, T., Ilovitsh, A., Foiret, J., Ferrara, K. W. 2018; 8: 5759


    Ultrasound images are severely degraded by the presence of obstacles such as bones and air gaps along the beam path. This paper describes a method for imaging structures that are distal to obstacles that are otherwise impenetrable to ultrasound. The method uses an optically-inspired holographic algorithm to beam-shape the emitted ultrasound field in order to bypass the obstacle and place the beam focus beyond the obstruction. The resulting performance depends on the transducer aperture, the size and position of the obstacle, and the position of the target. Improvement compared to standard ultrasound imaging is significant for obstacles for which the width is larger than one fourth of the transducer aperture and the depth is within a few centimeters of the transducer. For such cases, the improvement in focal intensity at the location of the target reaches 30-fold, and the improvement in peak-to-side-lobe ratio reaches 3-fold. The method can be implemented in conventional ultrasound systems, and the entire process can be performed in real time. This method has applications in the fields of cancer detection, abdominal imaging, imaging of vertebral structure and ultrasound tomography. Here, its effectiveness is demonstrated using wire targets, tissue mimicking phantoms and an ex vivo biological sample.

    View details for PubMedID 29636513

  • Acoustical structured illumination for super-resolution ultrasound imaging. Communications biology Ilovitsh, T., Ilovitsh, A., Foiret, J., Fite, B. Z., Ferrara, K. W. 2018; 1


    Structured illumination microscopy is an optical method to increase the spatial resolution of wide-field fluorescence imaging beyond the diffraction limit by applying a spatially structured illumination light. Here, we extend this concept to facilitate super-resolution ultrasound imaging by manipulating the transmitted sound field to encode the high spatial frequencies into the observed image through aliasing. Post processing is applied to precisely shift the spectral components to their proper positions in k-space and effectively double the spatial resolution of the reconstructed image compared to one-way focusing. The method has broad application, including the detection of small lesions for early cancer diagnosis, improving the detection of the borders of organs and tumors, and enhancing visualization of vascular features. The method can be implemented with conventional ultrasound systems, without the need for additional components. The resulting image enhancement is demonstrated with both test objects and ex vivo rat metacarpals and phalanges.

    View details for PubMedID 29888748

  • Modular fabrication and assembly of large 2D arrays with interface ASICs, PIN-PMN-PT composite, and 3D printed backing Wodnicki, R., Kang, H., Adhikari, J., Jung, H., Chen, R., Chen, Z., Jiang, L., Cabrera-Munoz, N., Zhang, R., Liu, Y., Chiu, V., Foiret, J., Stephens, D. N., Zhou, Q., Ferrera, K., IEEE IEEE. 2018
  • Ultrasound localization microscopy to image and assess microvasculature in a rat kidney SCIENTIFIC REPORTS Foiret, J., Zhang, H., Ilovitsh, T., Mahakian, L., Tam, S., Ferrara, K. W. 2017; 7: 13662


    The recent development of ultrasound localization microscopy, where individual microbubbles (contrast agents) are detected and tracked within the vasculature, provides new opportunities for imaging the vasculature of entire organs with a spatial resolution below the diffraction limit. In stationary tissue, recent studies have demonstrated a theoretical resolution on the order of microns. In this work, single microbubbles were localized in vivo in a rat kidney using a dedicated high frame rate imaging sequence. Organ motion was tracked by assuming rigid motion (translation and rotation) and appropriate correction was applied. In contrast to previous work, coherence-based non-linear phase inversion processing was used to reject tissue echoes while maintaining echoes from very slowly moving microbubbles. Blood velocity in the small vessels was estimated by tracking microbubbles, demonstrating the potential of this technique to improve vascular characterization. Previous optical studies of microbubbles in vessels of approximately 20 microns have shown that expansion is constrained, suggesting that microbubble echoes would be difficult to detect in such regions. We therefore utilized the echoes from individual MBs as microscopic sensors of slow flow associated with such vessels and demonstrate that highly correlated, wideband echoes are detected from individual microbubbles in vessels with flow rates below 2 mm/s.

    View details for PubMedID 29057881

  • Dynamic contrast enhanced MRI detects changes in vascular transport rate constants following treatment with thermally-sensitive liposomal doxorubicin JOURNAL OF CONTROLLED RELEASE Fite, B. Z., Kheirolomoom, A., Foiret, J. L., Seo, J. W., Mahakian, L. M., Ingham, E. S., Tam, S. M., Borowsky, A. D., Curry, F. E., Ferrara, K. W. 2017; 256: 203–13


    Temperature-sensitive liposomal formulations of chemotherapeutics, such as doxorubicin, can achieve locally high drug concentrations within a tumor and tumor vasculature while maintaining low systemic toxicity. Further, doxorubicin delivery by temperature-sensitive liposomes can reliably cure local cancer in mouse models. Histological sections of treated tumors have detected red blood cell extravasation within tumors treated with temperature-sensitive doxorubicin and ultrasound hyperthermia. We hypothesize that the local release of drug into the tumor vasculature and resulting high drug concentration can alter vascular transport rate constants along with having direct tumoricidal effects. Dynamic contrast enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI) coupled with a pharmacokinetic model can detect and quantify changes in such vascular transport rate constants. Here, we set out to determine whether changes in rate constants resulting from intravascular drug release were detectable by MRI. We found that the accumulation of gadoteridol was enhanced in tumors treated with temperature-sensitive liposomal doxorubicin and ultrasound hyperthermia. While the initial uptake rate of the small molecule tracer was slower (k1=0.0478±0.011s-1 versus 0.116±0.047s-1) in treated compared to untreated tumors, the tracer was retained after treatment due to a larger reduction in the rate of clearance (k2=0.291±0.030s-1 versus 0.747±0.24s-1). While DCE-MRI assesses a combination of blood flow and permeability, ultrasound imaging of microvascular flow rate is sensitive only to changes in vascular flow rate; based on this technique, blood flow was not significantly altered 30min after treatment. In summary, DCE-MRI provides a means to detect changes that are associated with treatment by thermally-activated particles and such changes can be exploited to enhance local delivery.

    View details for PubMedID 28395970

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5545100

  • Supersonic transient magnetic resonance elastography for quantitative assessment of tissue elasticity PHYSICS IN MEDICINE AND BIOLOGY Liu, Y., Liu, J., Fite, B. Z., Foiret, J., Ilovitsh, A., Leach, J., Dumont, E., Caskey, C. F., Ferrara, K. W. 2017; 62 (10): 4083–4106


    Non-invasive, quantitative methods to assess the properties of biological tissues are needed for many therapeutic and tissue engineering applications. Magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) has historically relied on external vibration to generate periodic shear waves. In order to focally assess a biomaterial or to monitor the response to ablative therapy, the interrogation of a specific region of interest by a focused beam is desirable and transient MRE (t-MRE) techniques have previously been developed to accomplish this goal. Also, strategies employing a series of discrete ultrasound pulses directed to increasing depths along a single line-of-sight have been designed to generate a quasi-planar shear wave. Such 'supersonic' excitations have been applied for ultrasound elasticity measurements. The resulting shear wave is higher in amplitude than that generated from a single excitation and the properties of the media are simply visualized and quantified due to the quasi-planar wave geometry and the opportunity to generate the wave at the site of interest. Here for the first time, we extend the application of supersonic methods by developing a protocol for supersonic transient magnetic resonance elastography (sst-MRE) using an MR-guided focused ultrasound system capable of therapeutic ablation. We apply the new protocol to quantify tissue elasticity in vitro using biologically-relevant inclusions and tissue-mimicking phantoms, compare the results with elasticity maps acquired with ultrasound shear wave elasticity imaging (US-SWEI), and validate both methods with mechanical testing. We found that a modified time-of-flight (TOF) method efficiently quantified shear modulus from sst-MRE data, and both the TOF and local inversion methods result in similar maps based on US-SWEI. With a three-pulse excitation, the proposed sst-MRE protocol was capable of visualizing quasi-planar shear waves propagating away from the excitation location and detecting differences in shear modulus of 1 kPa. The techniques demonstrated here have potential application in real-time in vivo lesion detection and monitoring, with particular significance for image-guided interventions.

    View details for PubMedID 28426437

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5545104

  • In vitro characterization and in vivo ultrasound molecular imaging of nucleolin-targeted microbubbles BIOMATERIALS Zhang, H., Ingham, E. S., Gagnon, M. J., Mahakian, L. M., Liu, J., Foiret, J. L., Willmann, J. K., Ferrara, K. W. 2017; 118: 63–73


    Nucleolin (NCL) plays an important role in tumor vascular development. An increased endothelial expression level of NCL has been related to cancer aggressiveness and prognosis and has been detected clinically in advanced tumors. Here, with a peptide targeted to NCL (F3 peptide), we created an NCL-targeted microbubble (MB) and compared the performance of F3-conjugated MBs with non-targeted (NT) MBs both in vitro and in vivo. In an in vitro study, F3-conjugated MBs bound 433 times more than NT MBs to an NCL-expressing cell line, while pretreating cells with 0.5 mM free F3 peptide reduced the binding of F3-conjugated MBs by 84%, n = 4, p < 0.001. We then set out to create a method to extract both the tumor wash-in and wash-out kinetics and tumor accumulation following a single injection of targeted MBs. In order to accomplish this, a series of ultrasound frames (a clip) was recorded at the time of injection and subsequent time points. Each pixel within this clip was analyzed for the minimum intensity projection (MinIP) and average intensity projection (AvgIP). We found that the MinIP robustly demonstrates enhanced accumulation of F3-conjugated MBs over the range of tumor diameters evaluated here (2-8 mm), and the difference between the AvgIP and the MinIP quantifies inflow and kinetics. The inflow and clearance were similar for unbound F3-conjugated MBs, control (non-targeted) and scrambled control agents. Targeted agent accumulation was confirmed by a high amplitude pulse and by a two-dimensional Fourier Transform technique. In summary, F3-conjugated MBs provide a new imaging agent for ultrasound molecular imaging of cancer vasculature, and we have validated metrics to assess performance using low mechanical index strategies that have potential for use in human molecular imaging studies.

    View details for PubMedID 27940383

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5279957

  • Development of a spherically focused phased array transducer for ultrasonic image-guided hyperthermia PHYSICS IN MEDICINE AND BIOLOGY Liu, J., Foiret, J., Stephens, D. N., Le Baron, O., Ferrara, K. W. 2016; 61 (14): 5275–96


    A 1.5 MHz prolate spheroidal therapeutic array with 128 circular elements was designed to accommodate standard imaging arrays for ultrasonic image-guided hyperthermia. The implementation of this dual-array system integrates real-time therapeutic and imaging functions with a single ultrasound system (Vantage 256, Verasonics). To facilitate applications involving small animal imaging and therapy the array was designed to have a beam depth of field smaller than 3.5 mm and to electronically steer over distances greater than 1 cm in both the axial and lateral directions. In order to achieve the required f number of 0.69, 1-3 piezocomposite modules were mated within the transducer housing. The performance of the prototype array was experimentally evaluated with excellent agreement with numerical simulation. A focal volume (2.70 mm (axial)  ×  0.65 mm (transverse)  ×  0.35 mm (transverse)) defined by the  -6 dB focal intensity was obtained to address the dimensions needed for small animal therapy. An electronic beam steering range defined by the  -3 dB focal peak intensity (17 mm (axial)  ×  14 mm (transverse)  ×  12 mm (transverse)) and  -8 dB lateral grating lobes (24 mm (axial)  ×  18 mm (transverse)  ×  16 mm (transverse)) was achieved. The combined testing of imaging and therapeutic functions confirmed well-controlled local heating generation and imaging in a tissue mimicking phantom. This dual-array implementation offers a practical means to achieve hyperthermia and ablation in small animal models and can be incorporated within protocols for ultrasound-mediated drug delivery.

    View details for PubMedID 27353347

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5028201

  • HIFU Power Network Optimization for Catheter Based Cardiac Interventions Stephens, D. N., Foiret, J., Lucero, S., Ferrara, K. W., Shivkumar, K., Khuri-Yakub, P., IEEE IEEE. 2016
  • 10 MHz Catheter-based Annular Array for Thermal Strain Guided Intramural Cardiac Ablations Stephens, D. N., Foiret, J., Lucero, S., Ferrara, K. W., Shivkumar, K., Khuri-Yakub, P., IEEE IEEE. 2015