L: Zibo Li, PhD: Associate Professor of Radiology / UNC Cyclotron & Radiochemistry Research Program Director
R: Jorge Oldan, MD: Assistant Professor of Radiology / UNC Radiology UME Co-Director

The Department would like to recognize UNC Radiology faculty colleagues and School of Medicine (SOM) co-investigators Drs. Zibo Li and Jorge Oldan for being co-awarded a UNC Program for Precision Medicine in Health Care (PPMH) pilot grant in February 2020, among six SOM investigators. UNC’s PPMH seeks to transform patient care via evidence-based precision medicine. The program awards North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute $5-$50K Pilot Program matched funds to proposals that evidence direct clinical or human translational impact. Successful PPMH projects should demonstrate precision medicine promise via implementation approaches within the UNC Health Care System, the State of North Carolina and beyond.

Over the next year, Drs. Li and Oldan will co-investigate a molecular imaging-focused pilot study entitled, “Development of [18F]-labeled Amino Acids for Positron Emission Tomography (PET).” In collaboration with Dr. Nicewicz at UNC’s Department of Chemistry, Dr. Li’s lab recently discovered two [18F]-labeled amino acids showing extensive tumor uptake but low background accumulation. The UNC Radiology faculty colleagues will evaluate the potential of these radiolabeled amino acids for use in oncology PET imaging. They will uphold the PPMH’s investigative mission through demonstrating that the Li lab’s optically pure radiolabeled amino acids can be synthesized and evaluated in mouse models in advancing early-stage, pre-clinical study of brain and pancreatic cancers in mice.

Dr. Li noted: “It is anticipated that these studies will pave a clear path for future clinical translation of lead agents in cancer research, which may eventually lead to personalized medicine by integrating PET imaging with patient screening and treatment monitoring.”