Cancer Systems Imaging Overview

David Piwnica-Worms, 
M.D., Ph.D., Chair 

The Department of Cancer Systems Imaging (CSI) resides within the Division of Diagnostic Imaging. CSI focuses on molecular imaging, functional genomics and high throughput technologies with a focus on mechanism-based fundamental, preclinical and clinical-translation studies of cancer. The department is engaged in basic and discovery-based science and is structured to enable rapid translation of breakthroughs in research through to patient care. The department’s mission includes creating new opportunities in imaging for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center community by functionalizing genomic and cancer pathways, promoting bench to bedside imaging research, and strengthening programs already in place. The department reflects the truly multidisciplinary nature of research that is being developed.

Faculty in the department are biologically and chemically-based and focus on research at the interface of cancer biology, chemical biology and imaging. The laboratories that comprise CSI drive biological queries at scales ranging from subcellular to cell populations, to small animals, and to patients. Some faculty interests lie in the development of innovative diagnostics, which allow for early detection of cancer.The faculty are working to develop new molecular imaging strategies that will be more sensitive and accurate in assessing the extent of disease, understanding oncogenic pathways of cancer, identifying targets for anti-cancer therapy, and monitoring anticancer molecular and cellular therapies. When translated, these novel imaging approaches may allow physicians to select individualized therapeutic regimens and help predict the efficacy of therapy early in treatment. Cancer Systems Imaging participates in the “Moonshot Initiatives.” The department and its faculty are funded by a P50 Molecular Imaging Center Grant, NIH grants, DOD funding, moonshot projects, and several collaborative grants.

The Department of Cancer Systems Imaging (CSI) consists of a variety of faculty with interest in chemistry, radiochemistry, genetics, cancer biology, animal models, transgenic animal models, optical molecular imaging and magnetic resonance hyperpolarization. Work in individual laboratories includes individual investigator/principal investigator-initiated research wherein pre- and postdoctoral trainees develop their skills and expand their knowledge in the field. Students and trainees learn laboratory techniques that include molecular biology, analytical biochemistry, synthetic chemistry, microscopy, genetic and cellular reporters, animal tumor models, MRI/NMR spectroscopy and hyperpolarization, among many areas. Cancer Systems Imaging is working towards launching a Pathway in Systems Imaging where trainees will be exposed to innovative imaging principles.

Cancer Systems Imaging is housed on the second, third and fourth floors of the South Campus Research Building (#3), with the main laboratory and office area located on the 4th floor.