GRANTEE: Pratip Bhattacharya, PhD
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Co-Principal Investigator: Florencia McAllister, MD
Research Project: Early Detection of PanIN by Hyperpolarized Metabolic MR Imaging
Award: 2016 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Translational Research Grant
Award Period: July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2018
Dr. Bhattacharya is an associate professor in the department of cancer systems imaging, division of diagnostic imaging, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He completed his PhD in chemistry at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and he conducted his postdoctoral training in magnetic resonance chemistry at the Huntington Medical Research Institutes at Caltech. He was an assistant professor at the University of Southern California and director of the enhanced magnetic resonance laboratory at Huntington Medical Research Institutes prior to joining MD Anderson in 2012. The main focus of Dr. Bhattacharya’s laboratory is the development of magnetic resonance-based techniques that can enhance the sensitivity of disease diagnosis, particularly in the areas of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. McAllister is a tenure-track assistant professor in the department of clinical cancer prevention, also at MD Anderson. Dr. McAllister has received two previous Pancreatic Cancer Action Network grants: a Career Development Award in 2014 and the Samuel Stroum – Fellowship Award in 2012. Originally from Pergamino, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dr. McAllister received her MD at National University of Rosario Medical School. She next moved to the United States, joined an immunology laboratory at Louisiana State University and later moved to the University of Pittsburgh, where she stayed for her medical residency. She then pursued medical oncology and clinical pharmacology fellowships at Johns Hopkins. At MD Anderson, she studies the intersection of tumor immunology and cell biology in pancreatic cancer. Dr. McAllister committed to fighting pancreatic cancer in the lab and clinic after losing her mother to the disease in 2006.
A major new diagnostic imaging technique is called hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This non-invasive, non-toxic and non-radioactive strategy involves visualizing tissues within the body that are metabolizing, or breaking down, sugars differently from other tissue types. Hyperpolarization allows for a more than 10,000-fold sensitivity enhancement relative to conventional MRI and is a method for assessing tissue metabolism and other physiologic properties.
Pancreatic tumors are known to frequently originate from a precancerous abnormality called pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasms, or PanINs. The overarching goal of Drs. Bhattacharya and McAllister’s proposal is to develop the capability of using hyperpolarized MRI to detect advanced PanIN precursor lesions prior to their progression to invasive disease. It has long been known that cancer cells metabolize sugars in a manner unique from normal cells – so the research team seeks to capitalize on this by developing a method to detect advanced PanIN lesions and pancreatic tumors at their smallest size due to their metabolic differences. Drs. Bhattacharya and McAllister will conduct a comprehensive metabolic imaging study in mice genetically engineered to develop pancreatic cancer that begin as PanIN lesions, and then their goal is to translate their findings to individuals at high risk for developing pancreatic cancer who are part of a high-risk clinic at MD Anderson Cancer Center.