Molecular Imaging Program


The majority of major US academic cancer centers have realized the potential impact and importance of quantitative imaging and molecular imaging in both basic and translational research as well as in eventual clinical care of patients.

Quantitative Imaging
Oncologists participating in clinical trials are often hampered by an absence of validated quantitative methods or imaging standards to predict and/or measure response to therapy. With the increasing number of oncologic therapeutic strategies currently available in clinical trials this has generated a need to have available reliable and reproducible methods for prediction and /or early assessment of therapeutic response. The need for validated quantitative imaging methods is particularly crucial in adaptive clinical trial where critical “go/no go decisions” are required. There is a critical requirement to have available validated new imaging techniques to meet these emerging requirements. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been instrumental in solving many of the problems associated with quantitative imaging in clinical trials. The Quantitative Imaging Network (QIN) is an example of a large NCI effort to solve many of the issues related to quantitative imaging in cancer clinical trials. Imaging societies such as the Radiologic Society of North America (RSNA) also have been instrumental in efforts to improve quantitative imaging. The RSNA effort known as the Quantitative Imaging Biomarkers Alliance (QIBA) has made many contributions in improving quantitative imaging in cancer  and other diseases. The Society for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging(SNMMI) also has developed a Clinical Trials Network with a mission of advancing the use of molecular imaging biomarkers in clinical trials through standardization of chemistry and imaging methodology. These society efforts are beginning to have a direct effect on improving the quality of imaging done in clinical trials.

Molecular Imaging
Molecular imaging is a discipline that has developed and matured over the past 20 years. The definition of molecular imaging has been somewhat vague and ill defined meaning different things to different individuals. Recently a task force from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) provided the following definition: Molecular imaging is the visualization, characterization, and measurement of biological processes at the molecular and cellular levels in humans and other living systems. To elaborate; Molecular imaging typically includes 2- or 3-dimensional imaging as well as quantification over time. The techniques used include radiotracer imaging/nuclear medicine, MR imaging, MR spectroscopy, optical imaging, ultrasound, and others.

The National Cancer Institute was instrumental in providing much of the funding through various initiatives and programs that has allowed molecular imaging to become such an important component of research and clinical care of patients with cancer. An overview of these efforts can be found in the following articles, Article 1, Article 2 and Article 3.

Some of the most notable investments by academic medicine has occurred at Harvard University, Stanford University, MD Anderson, and UCLA. More modest molecular imaging programs have been set up at the majority of academic medical centers in the US. Many of these due to funding from the National Cancer Institute. There are now two societies devoted to molecular imaging, the World Molecular Imaging Society (, and the Society for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging ( ). Medical journals such as the former European Journal of Nuclear Medicine are now the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. The Journal of Nuclear Medicine also now uses the phrase Molecular Imaging as a byline in its name. There are journals specifically dedicated to molecular imaging, European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Molecular Imaging and Molecular Imaging and Biology.

These changes have all occurred within the past 15 years. One of the most significant signs that molecular imaging was of critical importance to imaging occurred in January of 2004 when the most widely read and respected journal in imaging, Radiology, made molecular imaging one of its new sections with the addition of Associate Editors with expertise in molecular imaging.

History of the Center for Quantitative Cancer Imaging (CQCI)
The Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (HCI) and the University of Utah made commitments to develop a Molecular Imaging Program that supported the research and clinical efforts of HCI and the University. The program began with the purchase of a GE Advance PET scanner and later with the building of a cyclotron facility. In 2009 a dedicated PET imaging research facility was built housing the GE Advance PET scanner and a new research GE Discovery ST PET/CT scanner. In the spring of 2013 the GE Advance scanner was retired and a new GE Discovery PET/CT 710 time of flight scanner was installed. The currently available resources for molecular imaging within the Center for Quantitative Cancer Imaging are primarily oriented around capabilities in PET imaging. A complete and detailed listing of our infrastructure is provided elsewhere on this website. The infrastructure is state-of-the art and was initially focused on the production of Fluoro-2-deoxyglucose (FDG) and PET imaging of patients with cancer and for assessment of patients with dementia. Several other investigational research compounds are now available for research studies and listed below.

Current IND Imaging Agents

  • IND 76,843 3’-deoxy-3’-[F 18]fluorothymidine:[F-18]FLT
  • IND 104,035 [11C]-PIB (N-Methyl-[11C] 2-(41-methylaminophenyl)-6-hydroxybenzothiazole
  • IND 109,760 18F-39-F-6-OH-BTA1 also known as 18FGE067 (Flutemetamol) or 18F-PIB
  • IND 111,064 1H-1-(3-[18F]-fluoro-2-hydroxy-propyl)-2-nitro-imidazole [18F]-fluoromisonidazole [18F]FMISO, FMISO
  • IND 113,183 11C-Acetate or [C-11] Sodium Acetate
  • IND 113,529 H215O ([O-15] Water)
  • IND 113,858 2-deoxy-2-[18F]fluoro-D-glucose (FDG)
  • IND 120,130 [18F] Fluciclatide (GE [18F]AH111585)

In the summer of 2005 John M. Hoffman, MD was recruited to be the Director of the Molecular Imaging Program. The program has grown and expanded to encompass all aspects of quantitative cancer imaging. In the summer of 2013, Jeff Yap, PhD was recruited as the Associate Director of the Center to expand efforts in tumor metrics for patients on clinical trials and expansion of preclinical imaging. The name of the Molecular Imaging Program was changed to the Center for Quantitative Cancer Imaging in the summer of 2013 to more appropriately reflect the broad efforts of imaging taking place within the center and at HCI. An organizational chart of the center is available.