Emory Report
October 22, 2007
Volume 60, Number 8

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October 22, 2007
Investigators join forces to design cancer imaging center

By Kelly McCoy

Emory has been awarded a National Cancer Institute planning grant for $1.5 million to design and create the Emory Molecular and Translational Imaging Center. This center will ultimately help clinicians diagnose cancer patients earlier, closely monitor their progress and treat them more effectively.

Specifically, EMTIC will focus on creating and using noninvasive imaging techniques to study cancer both in the lab and in the clinic. Imaging science relies on developing probes to detect certain signals associated with specific diseases. These signals, or biomarkers, teach scientists and physicians more about a particular disease.

“This center will allow us to evaluate biomarkers that would be specific targets for cancer … for specific types of cancer or specific characteristics of cancer,” said Carolyn Meltzer, chair of radiology and associate dean for research in the School of Medicine.

Biomarkers can also be used to measure a patient’s responsiveness to a particular treatment regiment and to help guide the development of new therapeutics, she said.

The imaging techniques can also be used to study cardiovascular and neurological diseases. “Most of the efforts for this center are tied to cancer, but a lot of the methods can be applied to other disease processes,” Meltzer said.

Creating the EMTIC will require a multi-disciplinary effort between collaborators, including the Winship Cancer Institute and the departments of biomedical engineering, radiology, biostatistics, pathology, urology and surgery. Recently, the National Institutes of Health has created new types of grants to foster such collaborative efforts between principal investigators with complementary expertise. In the past, funding opportunities were only available to individual investigators.

“This is the first grant to Emory that is under the multiple PI option,” said Meltzer, who is one of three equal PIs on the grant along with Mark Goodman, Endowed Chair in Imaging Science, and Xiaoping Hu, director of the Biomedical Imaging Technology Center.

This model allows “a leadership team to approach problems in a team science manner,” said Meltzer. Using complementary methodologies, collaborators can more efficiently attack the same problem from different angles. In addition, having multiple PIs allows for the recruitment of other investigators to offer their expertise to the project when needed. There are already close to 20 researchers from both Emory and the Georgia Institute of Technology involved in the EMTIC, which when fully formed will be one of only eight cancer imaging centers nationwide.

With the cooperation of both basic scientists and clinicians, it will be easier to move what the researchers learn “from bench to bedside,” thereby developing new therapeutics more quickly, said Meltzer.