• Department of Imaging

    The Department of Imaging provides state-of-the-art technologies for imaging-based research, diagnostics, and drug development.

    Research focus

    Annick D. Van Den Abbeele, MDAnnick D. Van Den Abbeele, MD, Chair 

    The Department focuses on the development and validation of imaging as a biomarker through the use of the latest imaging technologies and techniques across each of its cancer-focused imaging modalities. It is dedicated to supporting translational molecular imaging research. This is achieved through facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations between disease-focused clinical investigators and basic scientists on clinical and preclinical imaging studies. Faculty members are also active in developing innovative image data-management protocols and participating in developing data-mining strategies to better inform clinical decision-making through their research efforts.

    To support its expanding research portfolio, the Department recently recruited radiologists Mizuki Nishino, MD, Katherine Krajewski, MD, and Katherine Zukotynski, MD, as well as Yuchuan Wang, PhD, a preclinical imaging physicist. In addition, Yoko Franchetti, PhD, a biostatistician who was jointly recruited with the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, develops the formal statistical design and analysis of imaging in clinical and preclinical trials.

    Participation in national groups

    Department of Imaging clinicians  

    Department faculty belong to various imaging consortia and working groups. This includes the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN), NCI Imaging Response Assessment Teams, Radiological Society of North America Imaging Biomarkers Roundtable and Quantitative Imaging Biomarker Alliance, CTEP Phase II Clinical Trial Design Working Group, CALGB Imaging Committee, the VIEW Consortium (QARC, ACRIN, CALGB) Imaging Standards Committee, National CTSA Imaging Working Group, and Society of Nuclear Medicine Clinical Trials Network.

    Evaluating tumor responses

    The Department pioneered the use of FDG-PET to evaluate response to tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) patients. This activity has continued in the clinical trials of successive TKIs, including sunitinib, dasatinib, nilotinib, and lapatinib. The use of FDGPET has also been extended to other cancers trials, including non-GIST sarcomas, metastatic breast cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma. The Department has had a very active role in defining the use of FDG-PET in clinical oncology trials within the global imaging community, particularly with regard to the standardization of multicenter trials.

    Nishino recently received an RSNA Research Scholar Grant to evaluate new methods of assessing response to erlotinib in women with adenocarcinoma, using CT imaging to measure chronological changes in tumor size, volume, and density. She is also actively involved in evaluating the recently updated RECIST 1.1 for lung cancer.

    Expanding the uses of PET

    The Department has successfully expanded the mechanisms that can be measured in vivo with PET by introducing the use of new radiopharmaceuticals. For example, in collaboration with Dana- Farber's Multiple Myeloma Program, PET with sodium fluoride (NaF-PET) was used to evaluate bone mineralization in osteonecrosis of the jaw compared to conventional CT, MRI, and FDG-PET imaging. The Department also collaborated with Geoffrey Shapiro, MD, PhD, of Medical Oncology and director of the Early Drug Development Center, and Ann LaCasce, MD, also in Medical Oncology, to conduct the first multicenter trial using fluorinated thymidine (FLT-PET).

    The first FDG-PET screening trial of high-risk populations was conducted by department faculty in collaboration with Judy Garber, MD, MPH, and colleagues in the Division of Population Sciences in Medical Oncology. The study demonstrated promising results in detecting asymptomatic cancer in patients with Li Fraumeni syndrome.

    Dana-Farber is an executive member of the Biomedical Imaging Core Resource that oversees the clinical and research activities of the cyclotron facility recently established at Brigham and Women's Hospital. This facility serves as a critical resource for new PET tracers for oncologic applications.

    Developing modalities for evaluating tumor vascularity, perfusion, and permeability

    The Department of Imaging is addressing the needs to evaluate the vascularity, perfusion, and permeability of tumors in response to antiangiogenic therapies used in clinical trials and, more recently, in clinical practice. This is being done in collaboration with investigators in Medical Oncology. Pamela Dipiro, MD, director of CT Imaging, and Jeffrey Yap, PhD, senior diagnostic physicist and director of the Clinical Imaging Center, have established the use of multi-slice CT perfusion imaging in collaboration with F. Stephen Hodi, MD, from Medical Oncology, a melanoma expert. Jyothi Jagannathan, MD, has established dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI imaging (DCE-MRI) to evaluate tumor perfusion and permeability effects in clinical trials being conducted in patients with brain tumors by Patrick Wen, MD, sarcomas by Andrew Wagner, MD, and metastatic breast cancer by Ian Krop, MD. Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is also being used to measure the diffusion of water in brain tumors.

    Don DiSalvo, MD, director of ultrasonography, is developing dynamic contrast enhanced (DCE) ultrasonography with the use of novel microbubbles.

    Resources to support imaging research

    A new Dana-Farber imaging center – the Center for Biomedical Imaging in Oncology (CBIO) – is led by Department Chair Annick Van den Abbeele, MD. CBIO is dedicated to facilitating the bidirectional translation of imaging research in cancer and the realization of personalized medicine. Features of the CBIO include: a clinical imaging research arm directed by Yap, and a preclinical imaging research program and the newly established Lurie Family Imaging Center directed by Andrew Kung, MD, PhD, of Pediatric Oncology.

    Van den Abbeele serves as the Dana-Farber site director for the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center's Tumor Imaging Metrics Core. This facility provides timely standardized and longitudinal radiological measurements of treatment response of subjects enrolled in clinical trials.

    Van den Abbeele is a member of the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) Imaging Steering Committee and chairs the DF/BWCC Research Subcommittee. The goals of this committee are to optimize, expand, and coordinate the clinical and research aspects of the DF/BWCC Cancer Imaging Program.

    The department's dedicated laboratory for multicenter imaging trials provides study design, imaging protocol development, PET/CT scanner evaluation and qualification, quality control and archival of imaging data, diagnostic review of images, centralized quantitative image analysis, and scientific interpretation of final imaging results.

    Training the next generation

    All imaging procedures are performed under the supervision of board-certified radiologists/nuclear medicine physicians. Radiology/nuclear medicine residency and fellowship training, as well as a radiology clerkship program for Harvard Medical School (HMS) students, are offered. Dana-Farber Imaging is a member of the Joint Program in Nuclear Medicine (JPNM) at HMS. It also serves as a radiologic technologist clinical training site for a number of local undergraduate and postgraduate radiological sciences programs.

    Of note

    Van den Abbeele and Yap have participated in various NCI working groups. They coauthored the NCI Consensus Recommendations on the use of FDG-PET in clinical trials and the CTEP considerations for the use of imaging in Phase II treatment trials in oncology. Van den Abbeele and Yap also serve as site co-directors for the Harvard's NIH Clinical and Translational Science Center Imaging Consortium, and Yap is the director of education for the Imaging Consortium.

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