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UCLA researcher advances PET imaging technology

PET imaging
Dr. Radu is a UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center member and a professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology. - UCLA

promising new discovery by UCLA scientists could lead to a new method of identifying cancer patients who express high levels of an enzyme and are more likely to respond to cancer treatments.

Decades of significant advances and improvements in PET imaging technology have led to the detection of an enzyme in humans that plays a significant role in DNA formation, the building blocks of life. The enzyme, called deoxycytidine kinase (dCK), was previously found to be highly expressed in acute leukemia cells and in activated lymphocytes. It controls a critical step in the nucleoside salvage pathway, an important therapeutic and PET imaging target in cancer.

In a seven-year study, a team of UCLA researchers led by Dr. Caius Radu, a UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center member and a professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, developed a highly sophisticated PET probe, called [18F]CFA, that is capable of detecting dCK activity in humans for the first time.

The study was published online March 28 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

“The quality of the images is much better,” said Radu. “We are able to clearly see tissues, including tumor tissues, with high dCK activity that we haven’t seen before in humans using any of the other probes previously developed for this enzyme.”

The complete story can be read here.