Dana-Farber opens advanced cancer imaging center


Research facility established to help bring personalized medicine to fruition

Harnessing state-of-the-art imaging technology for the study of cancer, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Lurie Family Imaging Center opens Monday, April 27, with a special ceremony at the center's home in the Marine Industrial Park on the South Boston waterfront.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony, to be held 2:30-3:00 p.m. at 27 Dry Dock Avenue with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and state Sen. Jack Hart in attendance, will include tours of the facility where scientists will use specially designed MRI, CT, PET, ultrasound and optical scanners to visualize abnormalities in tumors of laboratory animals, speeding the development and testing of drugs targeted at cancer-specific changes.

"As research continues to reveal the genetic complexity of cancer, it becomes ever clearer that therapy needs to be tailored to the specific set of mutations within each patient's tumor," says Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD.

"Work at the Lurie Family Imaging Center looks forward to the day when imaging technology becomes a standard tool for diagnosing tumors at the molecular level and guiding individualized treatment."

The center, established with donor funds from Nancy Lurie Marks and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, "will enable us to pioneer techniques for diagnosing tumors by their molecular makeup without the need to surgically remove tumor tissue to conduct a biopsy," says Barrett Rollins, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer at Dana-Farber.

"This process, by which patients will one day have their tumors scanned for genetic mutations, and receive drugs directed at those mutations, will be the centerpiece of personalized medicine in cancer."

"I want to thank Dana-Farber for their commitment to the spirit of discovery," says Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "While we've all had different experiences with cancer, there's one thing we can all agree on: fighting cancer is a team effort. I also want to thank Dana-Farber for working with the team at the Boston Redevelopment Authority to realize the benefits of locating in the Marine Industrial Park."

Improving imaging capabilities holds the promise to make the process of cancer drug development faster, less costly, and more efficient.

In contrast to the current practice of measuring the size of tumors on laboratory animals' skins or collecting them from internal organs to determine the effectiveness of experimental treatments, imaging technology will enable researchers to study the effects of such treatments by scanning tumors anywhere within the animals' bodies.

"Imaging technology provides a window into the inner workings of tumors, and in some cases can tell us whether drugs are working almost in real time," says Andrew Kung, MD, PhD, director of the Lurie Family Imaging Center. "We'll be able to more quickly identify drugs that are effective against certain cancers and stop working on those that aren't."

The center's primary goal is to optimize the capabilities of imaging technologies so they can be adapted for use in diagnosing human tumors and evaluating drugs studied in clinical trials. Making such applications a reality, however, will require extensive development, refinement, and testing of current imaging technology.

The Lurie Family Imaging Center is an integral part of the Center for Biomedical Imaging in Oncology (CBIO) at Dana-Farber that is "dedicated to use imaging technology as a tool to bridge the gap between research done in animals and clinical applications, and to bring new drugs more rapidly into clinical trials and practice," says Annick D. Van den Abbeele, MD, chief of Radiology and director of CBIO.

The 14,000 square-foot Lurie Family Imaging Center includes an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner specially designed for laboratory animals, a combined PET/CT (positron emission tomography/computed tomography) scanner, an advanced ultrasound imaging system, and multiple optical imagers for studies that use light-emitting proteins to track disease.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

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