Michigan Molecular Imaging Center Will Target
Cancer often lurks deep inside the body, going undetected and
untreated far too long. Even after it's discovered and treatment begins, doctors
may not be able to tell for months if their efforts are working well enough or
at all. Now, a new research center at the University of Michigan Health
System will tackle these crucial issues using sophisticated medical imaging
technology. With $4.2 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health,
U-M researchers will study new ways to see cancer and the effects of treatment
better and faster than ever before.
They'll also use imaging techniques
to spot important molecular events during cancer's growth, perhaps laying the
groundwork for new therapies.
Called a center for molecular imaging, the
effort involves faculty from the U-M Medical School's departments of Radiology,
Radiation Oncology, and other disciplines involved in cancer and medical
imaging. Based within the UMHS Comprehensive Cancer Center, it will build on
existing imaging capabilities there by adding new equipment and staff.
The center will allow scientists to see cancer in animals non-invasively
using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS), positron emission
tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT) and a new technique based on the
compound that makes fireflies glow. The U-M is the first academic institution in
the world to acquire a Xenogen bioluminescence scanner.
"We hope to
combine recent advances in medical imaging with new knowledge about cancer's
molecular workings to give physicians and patients the information they need to
prevent, find and treat cancer faster and more effectively," says associate
professor of radiology Brian Ross, Ph.D., who will co-direct the center's
efforts along with Alnawaz Rehemtulla, assistant professor of radiation
The U-M center is one of only five in the nation being
established under the NIH's new funding effort for molecular imaging. The U-M
application for funding received the highest score.
At the U-M, a
three-year, $1.2 million grant begins April 1, adding to a five-year, $2.9
million grant that began last August. The other centers are located at the
University of Pennsylvania, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Harvard
University, Stanford University and Washington University in St.
The U-M center will also serve as a regional tumor imaging
resource, attracting scientists from the U-M as well as surrounding institutions
such as the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, the University of Wisconsin and
the University of Minnesota to work with U-M researchers.
patients can't fit into the equipment being purchased for the new center -- it's
designed especially for mice and rats that will act as test subjects for new
ideas about how to see cancer more clearly.
The center's miniature
imaging machines should yield big results. Already, past U-M animal research on
imaging techniques is being applied to patients using human-size imaging
equipment and digital image processing capability at the Comprehensive Cancer
Now, the center's researchers believe that knowledge gained
through the new studies will pave the way for more eventual human trials, FDA
approval and routine clinical use.
Besides the Xenogen In Vivo
Biophotonic Imaging system, which captures faint light emitted by harmless
glowing molecules injected into the body, the center is adding a high-field
9.4-Tesla rodent MRI machine that will be one of the most powerful of its kind
in the world, and a miniature CT machine that uses X-rays to probe structures
with 0.05-millimeter resolution. It will be only the third such machine
delivered to any institution in the world.
These join a PET scanner that
makes images of metabolic activity within the body with 2-mm resolution, and
digital image processing laboratories directed by Charles Meyer, Ph.D.,
professor of radiology, that can even make time-lapse movies of cancers growing
and blood flowing within a tumor.
Part of the NIH grants will also be
used to fund new staff and a seminar series to enable the exchange of new
findings among scientists. The grants will also help businesses conduct drug
evaluation studies using these noninvasive imaging approaches in conjunction
with the U-M. - By Kara Gavin
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