Shokeen Research Group

The overarching research theme of my lab is to develop nuclear and optical molecular imaging approaches for cancer and cardiovascular abnormalities.  We use multimodal imaging platforms such as PET (Positron Emission Tomography), SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography), FMT (Fluorescence Molecular Tomography), and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Tomography) for designing optimal pre-clinical imaging experiments.

Cancer Imaging Project: There is an unmet need for tumor-specific multiple myeloma imaging agents that can detect early stage disease in medullary and extra-medullary tissues. Very late antigen-4 (VLA-4; also called α4β1 integrin) is over-expressed on myeloma cells and is one of the critical mediators of myeloma cell trafficking, proliferation, differentiation and drug resistance. An ongoing project in my lab is to develop a high-affinity PET radiopharmaceutical to assess disease progression and response to treatment in pre-clinical mouse and human models of multiple myeloma by quantitatively measuring activated VLA-4.  The ultimate goal of this project is successful clinical translation.

Cardiovascular Imaging Project: Unstable atherosclerotic plaque when ruptured significantly raises the risk of stroke and myocardial infarction. Clinicians currently lack tools to detect lesion instability and pro-thrombotic activity early enough to intervene, and therefore are often left to manage patients blindly, or worse, after disastrous plaque rupture and complete vessel occlusion with thrombus. We are currently evaluating in vivo imaging of focal atherosclerotic lesions in the femoral arteries of atherosclerotic rabbits using a custom built FMT system and near-infrared fluorescent (NIR) molecular dyes.

The research is supported by NCI-NIH R01CA176221, NIH CTSA Grant # UL1 TR000448, MIR imaging funds. 

Mission and Goals:

Our mission is to design functional molecular imaging agents that can efficiently report on the intracellular and extracellular proteins, and pathways that are activated in malignant cells. We are passionate about investigating the dynamic interactions that the tumor cells have with their microenvironment. We are currently developing targeted imaging approaches using PET, CT, MRI and optical modalities for malignant plasma cell neoplasms such as multiple myeloma. These approaches can be applied to a variety of bone-marrow related pathologies.

In addition, we are dedicated toward finding efficient, molecularly targeted approaches for detecting carotid artery atherosclerosis.