Dr. Niki M. Zacharias Millward
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Urology
My science focuses on urological cancers and uses an interdisciplinary approach to interrogate malignancy, metastatic progression and treatment. We work at the interface between chemistry, biology, biomedical imaging and clinical science with our major focus in two areas: 1) the determination of the metabolic profile of different phenotypes of urological cancers for biomarker discovery and to study targeted metabolic therapy and 2) the generation of novel imaging compounds to non-invasively diagnosis phenotype such as metastatic versus indolent and monitor efficacy of treatment. We utilize both cell culture, patient derived cancer xenograft (PDX) animal models and clinical biospecimens in our research. The laboratory uses magnetic resonance (MR) approaches to determine the metabolic profile of tissue, urine and plasma samples both ex vivo and in vivo with a technique called hyperpolarized MR. In hyperpolarized MR, a compound with enhanced signal (> 10,000 fold signal enhancement due to hyperpolarization) is injected into the blood stream and its metabolic conversion is monitored in real-time and in vivo. With hyperpolarization, we have been able to observe metabolic flux differences between cancer cells lines and PDX models. A student in the lab will learn how to perform MR imaging and spectroscopy and MR metabolic profiling along with molecular biology.