Radiological PhD student recognized for research advancing imaging system used in therapeutic drug delivery
Elena Zannoni, a PhD student of Prof. Ling-Jian Meng’s in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering, was awarded Third Place in the IEEE NPSS Christopher J. Thompson Student Paper Award competition at the 2018 IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium and Medical Imaging Conference (NSS-MIC) in Sydney, Australia.
This is the second consecutive award that Zannoni has won following a First Place finish in the same competition in the 2017 NSS-MIC Meeting.
The 2018 paper was entitled "Development of the MRC-SPECT-II System: A Simultaneous SPECT-MR system based on Inverted Compound Gamma Camera," and was presented during the MIC Plenary session. The specific aim of the research project is to develop the second generation of a preclinical MR (magnetic resonance)-compatible SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) system, the MRC-SPECT-II system, based on advanced semiconductor gamma-ray imaging detectors and an innovative geometry.
The MRC-SPECT-II system is designed primarily for in vivo monitoring the migration and the fate of small populations of therapeutically engineered stem cells in a mouse brain cancer model. This effort is built on top of a multi-institutional collaboration with colleagues from the Northwestern University, led by Dr. Maciej Lesniak, and the University of Chicago, led by Dr. Chin-Tu Chen. The major motivation is to complement the two on-going clinical trials Lesniak’s group has administered on using neural stem cells as a vehicle for delivering therapeutically-engineered nano-drugs to brain tumor.
The success of this project could potentially have transformative impacts such as advancing the forefront of SPECT imaging to offer a substantially improved imaging performance over conventional SPECT imaging systems. Moreover, the development of the MRC-SPECT-II system will facilitate translational and basic research based on small animal models, such as but not limited to tracking of therapeutically-engineered stem cells for treating glioblastoma, localization and quantification of functionalized nano-materials in tumor microenvironment, as well as monitoring disease progression and therapeutic response in longitudinal studies.
Zannoni is in her third year of doctoral studies and has been leading this project since the beginning of her degree. Her efforts in the MRC-SPECT-II system design and development have earned her an Honorable Mention in the Computer and Instrumentation Council Young Investigator Section at the yearly Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) Annual Meeting in 2016, and then the Best Student Paper award at the international IEEE Medical Imaging Conference in October 2017.