Shared Resource Spotlight: Oncology Precision Therapeutics and Imaging Core (OPTIC)

June 8, 2020

Precision medicine approaches have revolutionized cancer care and research. The development of personalized treatments requires preclinical in vivo models to predict the efficacy of newly-developed therapies.

The Oncology Precision Therapeutics and Imaging Core (OPTIC) provides researchers access to a broad range of in vivo imaging technologies that can help advance our understanding of how cancer progresses, and accelerate translational research by visualizing drug effects. OPTIC scientists have expertise in the newest molecular imaging technologies, generation of patient-derived models, as well as advising on the lifespan of in vivo studies - planning, execution, and analysis. 

Researchers using the OPTIC MRI
The Oncology Precision Therapeutics and Imaging Core (OPTIC) Shared Resource assists Cancer Center Members in imaging-based studies.

OPTIC provides a patient-derived xenograft (PDX) modeling service across all organ sites. The team specializes in orthotopic implantation approaches that seed tumor cell lines into the corresponding tissue in animal models, creating a disease-relevant tumor microenvironment. This allows researchers to asses tumor development and drug efficacy in a preclinical tumor model that closely mimics the disease process in humans. 

OPTIC scientists collaborate with the Database Shared Resource and the Molecular Pathology Shared Resource to obtain patient consent, data, and tumor tissue prior to generating the models. The models requested also contribute to the development of a growing bank of cryopreserved models that can be utilized by Columbia researchers to perform future patient-derived xenograft studies in their organ sites of interest at their convenience.

Included in the wide range of imaging services that OPTIC provides is a cutting-edge high-resolution ultrasound imaging system. In ultrasound imaging, sound pulses are emitted from a transducer held against the subject and the reflected signal is detected and used to construct an image. Ultrasound imaging is a powerful modality that enables non-invasive real-time visualization of organs and tissues. OPTIC recently upgraded their ultrasound system to the state-of-the-art VEVO 3100 system which will allow researchers to have the highest quality ultrasound imaging available.

This modality can also distinguish between different tissue types and can be used to measure tumor volumes over time. In a study led by HICCC members published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, ultrasound imaging performed by OPTIC helped demonstrate the efficacy of high-dose, single-fraction irradiation in a xenograft model of neuroblastoma. The high-frequency ultrasound technology was able to quantify the 63% decrease in tumor blood volume after high-dose radiation therapy compared with only 24% after conventionally fractionated radiation.

The OPTIC shared resource also offers researchers access to the 9.4 Tesla High-Field Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) system.  Located at the HICCC, this MRI enables researchers to perform extremely detailed anatomic imaging of any organ site, as well as high-end fMRI and MR spectroscopic imaging, allowing for real-time information on the concentration of chemicals of interest in specific areas of interest.  OPTIC has a MR physicist, Dr. Yanping Sun, dedicated to all magnetic resonance needs.

The Precision Therapeutics program is a new initiative dedicated to facilitating drug development of personalized therapies. Utilizing their decades of in vivo preclinical pharmacology experience, OPTIC scientists can perform in vivo tolerability, pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic, growth testing, and efficacy studies for any lab at CUIMC that would like to investigate, but do not have the in vivo experience available within their lab.  Keeping these types of studies in house greatly stretches lab funds to allow for more robust research to be performed.

In the near future, OPTIC is looking to expand its patient-derived xenograft program to as many organ sites as possible and to continue to expand the bio-banked specimens for researchers’ needs.  In addition, OPTIC will be expanding their collaboration with the PET center at CUIMC to build a full suite of translational imaging modalities that have a direct mouse-to-human correlation of treatments and investigations.


Visit the OPTIC Shared Resource page to access more detailed information about the many OPTIC modalities, or simply reach out to with any questions.