This year’s BRIght Futures Prize finalists are pursuing forward-thinking and inventive research to improve patient care. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Nov. 10. Read about their work below, and vote for your choice.
Ultrasound Device for Ulcerative Colitis – Giovanni Traverso, MD, PhD
What problem are you trying to solve and why?
Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong, debilitating disease that causes severe inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract—specifically, the colon. It affects almost 800,000 people in the U.S., with an additional 60,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Symptoms include abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and chronic diarrhea. More than 20 percent of patients eventually undergo surgery to remove part or all of the colon. The disease also carries a social stigma and can significantly diminish quality of life. Better treatment options are urgently needed.
Today, patients are often prescribed medicated enemas that require them to retain the medication overnight to maximize its absorption in the colon. It is an uncomfortable experience that a patient may have to endure nightly for weeks. While some drugs are highly effective at quelling the inflammation that causes UC’s symptoms, they are too large and delicate to be delivered directly into the colon. They must be injected, which has many drawbacks.
What is your solution?
We have developed a device that uses ultrasound to deliver therapies directly to the site of disease with a brief enema, stopping inflammation without the need for an injection or overnight enema. Patients can use this device themselves in their homes, enabling them to take back control and live happier, healthier lives.
By using ultrasound to gently propel medication into the tissue, significantly greater amounts of the drugs can be delivered. And it only takes one minute—as opposed to several hours—for this device to administer medication. We also anticipate that we will be able to use our method to deliver a wide variety of drugs and new treatments as they become available—not just for treating ulcerative colitis, but also for other diseases.
How will your research project benefit people?
This device will be easier and more convenient for patients to use, with better clinical outcomes for those who suffer from ulcerative colitis. Not only will our device reduce the burden of enema administration, but it will also enable patients to receive highly effective medications that currently may only be injected. This will reduce patients’ medical expenses, improve their outcomes and prevent the worsening of symptoms or the development of related diseases. Finally, the technology this device runs on has the potential to be used in treating a wide range of other diseases, and due to its simplicity, our device can be used continuously for days, like an IV infusion. Many apheresis treatments for hospitalized patients are staggered three times a week because of the staffing complexity and large blood volumes involved. With this device, patients won’t have to wait between treatments, and we can remove more disease-causing antibodies and blood cells than is currently feasible.