Opened for clinical trials in spring 2012, the center has improved access to state-of-the-art imaging equipment to better locate tumors, characterize them and spy on their biological activity, including treatment response.
“Designed for innovative translational research, CABIR allows us to do the preclinical research and then take the imaging agent or technique into the clinic,” says Marshall Hicks, M.D., professor and head of MD Anderson’s Division of Diagnostic Imaging and director of CABIR.
The center is a collaboration of MD Anderson, GE Healthcare Technologies (GEHT) and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The GEHT “in kind-contribution” included a new magnetic resonance imaging unit, a volume computerized tomography, dual energy CT and a combination positron emission tomography PET/CT unit for the Translational Research Imaging Facility.
MD Anderson and GEHT have 14 joint preclinical or technical research projects under way, says CABIR Medical Director Donald Podoloff, M.D., professor in the departments of Nuclear Medicine and Diagnostic Radiology. Clinical projects are in the pipeline. These research projects will help to pay down the cost of the equipment provided by GEHT.
MD Anderson researchers with grant funding are conducting a variety of clinical studies. Availability of equipment on South Campus is a relief to investigators, who previously relied on scarce time slots at odd hours on imaging equipment dedicated mainly to patient care on the main campus.
Facility speeds up research
Francesco Versace, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of Behavioral Science, is conducting a pilot study using functional MRI to determine whether treatment-induced chemobrain in breast cancer survivors suppresses sexual desire.
“Having this facility is fantastic for researchers,” Versace says. “It’s going to speed up research because we’ll have more access to scanners, and more participants are likely to enroll in our studies.”
Other studies under way include MRI imaging projects for prostate cancer and brain tumors. Podoloff is examining the use of a non-glucose-based radioactive tracer for PET scans of brain tumors, prostate and breast cancer.
Most cancers rely heavily on glucose metabolism for energy, but prostate and subtypes of breast cancer don’t. PET scans that employ a glucose-based tracer to measure metabolic activity don’t work very well for those tumors. The brain poses a different problem: Brain cells are heavy glucose metabolizers, so the tumor’s use of glucose gets lost in the background.
“A PET scan after treatment can be like a noninvasive biopsy of the tumor to see if treatment is working,” Podoloff says.
CABIR has the capacity to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals at its Cyclotron-Radiochemistry Core Facility, also provided by GE, under Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Laboratory Practice guidelines required to produce agents for human use.