Karun Sharma

Children’s National designated Center of Excellence by Focused Ultrasound Foundation

Karun Sharma

“This designation provides a high level of recognition and legitimacy to the work our Children’s National team has done with MR-HIFU over many years,” says Karun Sharma, M.D., PhD, director of Interventional Radiology and associate director of clinical translation at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation.

More precise, less invasive and less painful surgery with lower risk of complications and no radiation exposure – these are some of the benefits of treating pediatric tumors with Magnetic Resonance Guided High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (MR-HIFU). And now the Focused Ultrasound Foundation has designated Children’s National Hospital as the first global pediatric Center of Excellence (COE) for using this technology to help patients with specific types of childhood tumors.

“This designation provides a high level of recognition and legitimacy to the work our Children’s National team has done with MR-HIFU over many years,” says Karun Sharma, M.D., PhD, director of Interventional Radiology and associate director of clinical translation at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation (SZI) at Children’s National. “This will allow our focused ultrasound program to expand to other areas of interest and become more cohesive while continuing to uncover additional clinical indications for pediatric patients.”

At Children’s National, radiologists use MR-HIFU to focus an ultrasound beam into lesions, usually tumors of the bone and soft tissues, to heat and destroy the tissue in that region. There are no incisions at all. In 2015, Children’s National doctors became the first in the U.S. to use MR-HIFU to treat pediatric osteoid osteoma, a painful, but benign, bone tumor that commonly occurs in children and young adults. The trial, led by Dr. Sharma, demonstrated early success in establishing the safety and feasibility of noninvasive MR-HIFU in children as an alternative to the current, more invasive approaches to treat these tumors. The team also conducted another clinical trial, led by AeRang Kim, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric oncologist, to treat relapsed soft tissue tumors such as sarcomas.

Since then, the Children’s National team has built an active clinical trials program and become a leader in translation of focused ultrasound for the treatment of pediatric solid tumors. The center is currently investigating the treatment of malignant solid tumors with focused ultrasound alone and combined with chemotherapy.

“Focused ultrasound offers a number of important benefits over traditional therapies, which are especially paramount for the pediatric population,” said Focused Ultrasound Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, M.D. “The team at Children’s National has an exemplary track record in using this technology to pioneer new treatment options for their patients, and we look forward to collaborating and supporting their future research.”

As a designated COE, Children’s National has the necessary infrastructure to support the ongoing use of this technology, especially for carrying out future pediatric clinical trials. This infrastructure includes an ethics committee familiar with focused ultrasound, a robust clinical trials research support team, a data review committee for ongoing safety monitoring and annual safety reviews, and a scientific review committee for protocol evaluation.

The program also features a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and investigators from SZI, radiology, oncology, surgery and orthopedics. With the new designation and continued expansion, we will expand MR-HIFU to other areas such as neuro-oncology, neurosurgery, and urology. Ongoing and future work will investigate a rational combination of MR-HIFU with local tumor drug delivery, immunotherapy and cellular therapy.

“This recognition sets us apart as a premier pediatric institution, and will allow us to pave the way to make pediatric surgery more precise and less invasive,” says Dr. Sharma.


Charcot-Marie-Tooth diseas form

Children’s National designated CMTA Center of Excellence

Charcot-Marie-Tooth diseas form

Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) is a degenerative nerve disease that frequently appears in adolescents and early adulthood but can also be seen with onset in early childhood.

Children’s National Hospital is proud to receive the designation as a CMTA Center of Excellence. One of the CMTA’s primary missions is improving the quality of life for those with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), a degenerative nerve disease that while frequently appears in adolescents and early adulthood, can also be seen with onset in early childhood. Through these 35 CMTA Centers of Excellence, children, adults and families affected by CMT can be assured of receiving comprehensive care by a team of CMT experts that will now be available at Children’s National.

“It’s an honor for Children’s National and our multidisciplinary team to be recognized as a CMTA Care Center,” says Diana Bharucha-Goebel, M.D., neuromuscular neurologist and neurophysiologist at Children’s National. “Our team has long strived to provide comprehensive and specialized care for children with CMT, ranging from expertise in genetic and electrophysiologic diagnostics to specialized family centered care in orthopedics, physical and occupational therapies, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, nutrition and bone health.”

This is the first time Children’s National has received the CMTA Center of Excellence designation. Doctors at Children’s National applied for this designation directly through the CMTA and were selected based on recognition of its program services, patient volume, expertise and experience.

Approximately 20 of the CMTA Centers of Excellence are INC-designated centers, a group of academic medical centers, patient support organizations and clinical research resources sponsored in part by the CMTA. The CMTA Centers of Excellence will become even more important as the CMTA begins clinical trials for candidate therapies.

The success of these trials will largely depend on how much information is available about the natural history of CMT. Specifically, how different types of CMT progress over time and whether novel medications are slowing the course of the disease. Much of that information will be provided by the Centers of Excellence.

“We are excited for the ongoing opportunities as a CMTA Care Center, especially at a time when novel therapeutic strategies are emerging in the field of neuromuscular medicine,” said Dr. Bharucha-Goebel.

To learn more information about the neuromuscular medicine program and the members of the team click here.