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Programs & Resources

University of California, Los Angeles

The UCLA Center for In vivo Imaging in Cancer Biology
Harvey Herschman, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA has a mature biological imaging program based on PET instrumentation, chemistry, assays and applications, and a strong program in cancer biology, detection and treatment. Four years ago, Dr. Herschman, Director for Basic Research of the UCLA Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Dr. Phelps, Director for the UCLA PET Program, initiated a collaboration to merge the principles of cell and molecular biology with molecular imaging. With Drs. Barrio, Cherry, Gambhir, Sayamurthy and (later) Toyokuni, they initiated a program to monitor, in living animals, the expression of reporter genes in a non-invasive, repetitive and quantitative fashion. This collaboration developed two PET reporter genes, the dopamine D2 receptor and the Herpes Simplex Virus thymidine kinase, whose ectopic expression can be monitored in vivo by the PET reporter gene-dependent sequestration of systemically administered positron-labeled probes. The technology has been validated at UCLA both for virally delivered genes for gene therapy applications and in transgenic animal models for applications to repetitively monitoring gene expression.

The goal of the UCLA ICMIC is to translate new in vivo imaging technology to cancer research. Four outstanding investigators: Hong Wu, Charles Sawyers and Arnold Berk, along with our initial gene imaging group, are proposing projects that utilize microPET in living animals to answer questions in cancer initiation, progression, metastasis, vascularization, immune modulation and gene therapy that would otherwise be difficult to approach. Our Specialized Resources are designed to provide investigators not versed in imaging technologies with the most user-friendly access to positron-labeled probes, microPET scanning and data analysis. We think this initial outstanding cadre of recruits to imaging applications in cancer research will be catalytic, and draw additional faculty to this new technology through our ICMIC Developmental Funds Program.

We also regard laboratory and didactic training at the interface of these disciplines, for both (i) new and established cancer investigators and (ii) new and established imaging researchers, as the major way to develop the next generation of cancer researchers - who will view this interface as seamless. Our Career Development Component will provide a collaborative laboratory environment and a tailored didactic program designed to merge these disciplines for individual trainees.