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AT-NCIGT - The National Center for Advanced Technologies for Image Guided Therapy

Yi-Fen Yen, PhD: Hyperpolarized 13C Metabolic Imaging of Prostate Cancer

Yifen Yen


Recent breakthroughs enabling the hyperpolarization of biologically interesting compounds containing 13C are revolutionizing the ways we image metabolism in vivo. Unlike positron-emission tomography (PET), hyperpolarized 13C magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopic imaging not only detects the injected 13C-labeled metabolite but also its downstream products through chemical shifts in the measured MR spectra. This new molecular imaging technique allows quantitative assessment of flux along the metabolic pathways and hence, complements the PET findings. Hyperpolarized 13C metabolic imaging has shown promise in elucidating metabolic changes in cancer cells and animal studies, supporting the concept considering cancer as a metabolic disease with the metabolic shifts enforced by oncogenes and tumor suppressors. The first-in-human hyperpolarized 13C imaging study was conducted recently in prostate cancer patients, confirming the clinical potential of this remarkable technology. There is considerable debate about prostate cancer management and watchful waiting may be the answer for many patients in whom disease is likely to be inactive. However, 18FDG-PET is not effective in prostate cancer due to low tumor uptake and the diagnostic tools needed to predict disease aggressiveness are lacking, making patient-specific therapy difficult. This presentation will cover the basic principle of hyperpolarized 13C imaging technique and its applications in prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment monitoring.

Short Bio

Yi-Fen was trained as an Experimental Nuclear Physicist in her early career, by using Dynamic Nuclear Polarization (DNP) technique to prepare hyperpolarized 13C targets for nuclear scattering experiments in Los Alamos National Laboratory. In the past 20+ years, she has devoted herself in the development of advanced MRI techniques for contrast enhanced dynamic imaging, brain functional imaging, and hyperpolarized 13C metabolic imaging. Yi-Fen was a Senior Scientist at General Electric Healthcare for many years, where she developed methodology, pulse sequences and RF coils for hyperpolarized 13C metabolic imaging on 3T clinical scanners for proof-of-concept pre-clinical studies, which led to the first Investigational New Drug approval for the first-in-human hyperpolarized 13C pyruvate imaging in prostate cancer patients. Yi-Fen joined the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in 2015, and is now the Director of Hyperpolarized Imaging at the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. She was awarded an NIH High-end Instrumentation grant last year for the purchase of a 13C polarizer to continue her effort to develop this novel imaging technique for clinical and pre-clinical applications.
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