Associate 2013-14

Yi Lu


Selective Agents for Multi-target and Multi-modal Cancer Detection, Imaging, and Therapy

Much progress has been made in the early detection and treatment of cancers. Most reports, however, have focused on individual targets with limited numbers of imaging and therapeutic techniques, making it difficult to integrate the results. Professor Lu has assembled a group of collaborators to address this problem. Together, they plan to develop selective theranostic (i.e., integrated therapeutic and diagnostic) agents for multi-target and multi-modal cancer imaging and therapy that span the scale from molecular to animal models. During his Center appointment, Professor Lu will lead the group’s preliminary efforts and work toward establishing a nationally-recognized center of excellence in cancer theranostics.

A critical barrier to achieving successful cancer imaging and therapy is the lack of specificity for targeting only cancer cells and not normal cells. At the same time, it has also become clear that imaging modalities with high sensitivities may have relatively poor resolution and specificity, while those with high resolution and specificity can be poor in sensitivity. The researchers in this project will explore advantages that might result from combining highly selective and versatile aptamers that can recognize a number of
receptors together with clinically proven liposomes that can encapsulate several imaging and therapeutic agents. The resulting general platform will help to characterize the content of markers and receptors, monitor their dynamic responses to treatment protocols, and target appropriate therapies.

While this project focuses on breast cancer, the methods used can be applied generally to other cell-specific cancer therapies. The collaborations across disciplines (cancer biology, imaging probe development, imaging technologies, evaluation of modes of cancer detection and targeted therapies) are expected to enrich the multidisciplinary knowledge networks on campus and enhance various research infrastructures.