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Clinical Translation
Translational Molecular Imaging and Theranostics Lab.
Current Research Interests
- Development of Novel Theranostics Agents for Cancer and Immunological Disorders
  1. Radiation Induced Photodynamic Therapy
  2. Theranostic Long Circulating Photothermal Gold Nanoparticles
- Radiogenomic Analysis for Cancer Biomarker Discovery


Current Research Interests
1. Radiation Induced Photodynamic Therapy
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is an effective anti-cancer strategy with a higher selectivity and fewer adverse effects than conventional therapies; however, shallow tissue penetration depth of light has hampered the clinical utility of PDT. Radiation induced luminescence (radioluminescence) can be used for PDT without depth problem. We are developing liposomal nanoplatform for radiation induced PDT utilizing scintillating europium chelates and various photosensitizers (Lee, Jeon, Im* et al. ACS Nano 2020). We envision that this novel type of PDT agent will broaden the application PDT, and also can be coupled with targeted radionuclide therapy (Combined Targeted RAdionuclide Therapy – Photodynamic Therapy, Co-TRAP Therapy).

2. Theranostic Long Circulating Photothermal Gold Nanoparticles
Photothermal therapy (PTT) is one of the effective anti-cancer therapeutic strategies, generating hyperthermia to ablate cancer cells under a laser irradiation. Gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) are considered as one of the most promising photo-absorbers for PTT because of the excellent photothermal conversion efficiency and tunability of absorption band. Due to the unique surface plasmon resonance phenomenon, Au NPs have an unprecedently fast and efficient photothermal conversion compared to organic photo-absorbers. However, there are drawbacks of Au NPs, which are 1) low tumor targeting ability due to short circulation time, 2) potential toxicity due to long-term retention in the body system and 3) difficulty of non-invasive assessment of biodistribution. We are developing radiolabeled theranostic liposomal Au decorated liposome that has efficient tumor targeting ability, efficient excretability and can be imaged by in vivo positron emission tomography (PET).

3. Radiogenomic Analysis for Cancer Biomarker Discovery
Cancer is a heterogenous disease at genetic, epigenetic and phenotypic levels. Cancer progression is driven by a genetic process of clonal evolution, which eventually causes tumor genetic heterogeneity, a tumor with multiple subsets of subclonal mutations. Acquired tumor genetic heterogeneity is caused by the selective pressures during the evolution process and affected by tumor vasculature and immune system in the microenvironment. Furthermore, genetic heterogeneity eventually drives the phenotypic heterogeneity of tumor by interacting environmental factors. Heterogeneous subsets of tumor have different molecular targets, which may result in different levels of resistance to the cancer treatment. Accordingly, tumor heterogeneity is associated with the progression and eventual clinical outcomes of cancer patients. Thus, evaluation of tumor heterogeneity is crucial for selecting anticancer strategies and predicting clinical outcomes. We are investigating how the genetic and metabolic heterogeneity features of the tumor are associated with each other in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSC).


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