The Molecular Imaging Program was founded with the goal of providing state of the art molecular imaging expertise and techniques to investigators and clinicians primarily at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and to the rest of the University of Utah whenever possible. The focal point and most developed of the molecular imaging techniques that will be provided to the HCI and University community will be PET imaging.
The Molecular Imaging Program is a joint effort on the part of the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), Huntsman Cancer Hospital (HCH), the Brain Institute, the Department of Radiology, and the School of Medicine. The program will take several years to evolve with much input and effort on the part of many individuals. At this point in time it would be premature to state that there is a main research focus for the program. To date current research efforts have centered on PET imaging due to that available infrastructure and resource.
The priority of the Molecular Imaging Program is to leverage the strengths of the HCI and the University of Utah. This will be the most appropriate approach for the program to be successful in obtaining extramural support. The radiologist can now provide details of both anatomy, physiology, and metabolic parameters. Equipped with this knowledge, the surgeon, the cardiologist, or the oncologist can tailor a treatment to the precise features of a disease in a specific individual.
How to use imaging technology for this individualized approach, broadly termed "personalized medicine", is cutting-edge research and an area of priority for the Molecular Imaging Program. The advantage of Medical Imaging is that relevant biologic information is gathered non-invasively. It is therefore possible to monitor the progression of a disease over time; an approach that is out of the question where diagnosis requires surgery or tissue sampling such as repeated biopsies. While a personalized approach may be the future of standard health care, medical research already demands longitudinal studies of disease progression and response to therapy.
A goal of our program is to develop non-invasive imaging techniques to identify relevant biological parameters of disease to improve therapeutic selection and monitor response to subsequent treatment. For example, a complementary set of imaging techniques can characterize the blood supply, growth parameters, metabolic characteristics, and cell surface receptors of a tumor. These biologic parameters can be used to help select the most appropriate therapy based on biologically relevant information. Once the therapy is selected it can be assessed and monitored early in the course of therapy to assure that the patient is receiving the most appropriate therapy. In those instances where the biologic parameters are not behaving as expected another course of therapy can be chosen thus assuring that each and every patient is receiving the most appropriate therapy for their particular tumor. This "personalized" early therapeutic monitoring of therapy will then correlate with tumor response and can be used to predict a final treatment outcome. Currently, the outcome of a treatment is only known at the end, or even long after the end of a particular treatment course. The goal is to assure early in the course of a particular therapy that there is an appropriate biologic response. Using the results or these various imaging tests it will be possible to pre-select the most appropriate treatment, modify the drugs, interventions or therapeutic procedures accordingly during the therapy of the individual patient.
The University of Utah offers many unique features for the development of the concept of "personalized medicine". This includes the Universities strength in
The integration of molecular imaging into these resources is a natural fit in the developing concept of "personalized medicine".
The Program has been successful over the past several years in obtaining extramural support for many projects of interest to members of the program and others within HCI and the University. Please view the following links and this will provide an overview of the current research projects and clinical trials.
- Accomplishments to Date
- Clinical Trials
- Grant Funding