Cancer Molecular Imaging, Nanotechnology and Theranostics Program

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Dr. Caius Radu Dr. Jeffrey Zink

Director
Johannes Czernin, M.D.
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Co-Director
Caius Radu, Ph.D.
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Co-Director
Jeffrey Zink, Ph.D.
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Overview

The Cancer Molecular Imaging, Nanotechnology, and Theranostics (CMINT) research program advances translational imaging, nanoparticle design and delivery, and theranostics to improve cancer patient outcomes and moves discoveries from preclinical and clinical applications. The research program is highly interactive and transdisciplinary, and brings together 45 faculty members from four UCLA schools and partner institution Caltech, representing 16 basic and clinical departments. Its members have diverse and complementary expertise in an extensive range of disciplines including biology, nuclear medicine, physics, nanotechnology, urology, radiology, radiation oncology, drug development, engineering, image reconstruction, chemistry, radiochemistry and animal models of disease.

Goals

The four specific aims of the CMINT research program are:

  • Development of instrumentation, analytical tools, and novel molecular imaging approaches
  • Imaging immune responses and responses to immunotherapy
  • Nanotechnology-based imaging and therapeutic delivery systems
  • Translation of diagnostic and theranostics approaches into the clinic

Meetings and Events

  • Participation in the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center seminar series that features invited outside and local faculty
  • Weekly research program meeting
  • Quarterly presentations featuring SOMI (Scholars in Oncologic Molecular Imaging) postdoctoral fellows and faculty discussions
  • Seminar series with external speakers (in collaboration with Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging and California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA)
  • Quarterly research program scientific exchange dinners
  • Semi-annual, inter-programmatic symposia on nanotechnology in cancer

Leadership

Director Dr. Johannes Czernin is Professor and Vice Chair of the UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. Czernin serves as Chief of the Ahmanson Translational Imaging Division (ATID), that includes the UCLA nuclear medicine clinical service, the biomedical cyclotron operation, a preclinical imaging center, a cancer biology and drug development group (Radu) as well as a radiochemistry group. He has more than 25 years of experience in molecular imaging, and held national and international leadership positions including president of the Academy of Molecular Imaging). He serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. He is a co-founder of Sofie Biosciences Inc. and Trethera Therapeutics, UCLA spin-offs that translate technology and targeted drugs to the market. Czernin has established a translational research program that links laboratory studies of cellular uptake of radioactive metabolites or ligands, preclinical evaluation of specific molecular imaging probes in small animals, and clinical evaluation of new radiotracers for molecular imaging of cancer patients. He also recently established a successful translational theranostics program. His strength is in translating preclinical research into clinical applications, and he has designed and conducted numerous past and ongoing clinical trials.

Co-director Dr. Caius Radu is Professor and Vice-Chair of the UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. He serves as associate director of ATID and heads their cancer biology and drug development groups. His work elucidates therapy resistance mechanisms in cancer and identifies cancer liabilities that can be exploited using pharmacologic and genetic approaches. Radu embeds diagnostics and therapeutics in tumor biology resulting in identification and pharmacologic targeting of cancer liabilities. He closely collaborates with Czernin to define unmet clinical needs that are addressed from the cellular to the small animal and finally to the clinical level. He has established a successful drug development program and uses imaging probes as predictive biomarkers for treatment response. Radu is also a co-founder of Sofie Biosciences Inc. and Trethera Therapeutics.

Co-director Dr. Jeffrey Zink is a Distinguished Professor in the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He is a pioneer of multifunctional mechanized nanoparticle synthesis and biomedical applications, and with his collaborators, create particles that are biocompatible and deliver hydrophobic drugs and siRNA into cells and tumors in vivo. His studies brought worldwide attention to the therapeutic properties of mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNPs) as drug delivery systems. Additional collaborations have proudced a creative method to modify the vasculature for improved drug delivery in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the engineering of siRNA-loaded nanoparticles to inhibit TWIST protein and block the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in breast and ovarian cancers, and the development of novel nanoparticle-based magnetic resonance image guided therapy.

Upcoming Events

The following list is for upcoming events and seminars of notable interest to the Cancer Molecular Imaging, Nanotechnology and Theranostics Program and its members. This calendar is updated automatically.

For a list of all upcoming JCCC events (including other research programs, patients and survivors, and the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation), please visit the Events Calendar.