UCLA Molecular Imaging Center nets $10M grant renewal

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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has renewed a five-year, $10 million grant supporting a molecular imaging center at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for a third cycle, bringing the total support for the center to $30 million.

The grant funds the UCLA Center for In Vivo Imaging in Cancer Biology, one of the NCI's eight specialized In Vivo Cellular and Molecular Imaging Centers (ICMICs).

The first UCLA ICMIC grant, awarded in 2001, allowed scientists to extend the development and use of non-invasive molecular imaging technologies, such as PET. The second ICMIC grant, awarded in 2005, allowed the scientific advances made in the first five years to be translated into the clinic to improve the diagnosis and staging of cancer.

Projects funded by the ICMIC grant have included optimizing PET imaging technologies to rapidly monitor metabolic responses of brain and lung tumors to experimental therapies. Another translational project involved the use of reporter genes to mark modified immune cells used to stimulate the body's own response to melanomas.

Harvey Herschman, PhD, director of basic research at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and a professor in the biological chemistry and pharmacology departments of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said this round of funding will allow UCLA researchers to develop new imaging instrumentation, technology and potential therapeutic and imaging agents, as well as test these advances in preclinical models and initiate clinical trials in cancer patients.