An Overview of the Thorek Lab

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Multidisciplinary research to improve and better understand human health.

Our work is focused on revealing underlying mechanisms of disease biology, and translating these insights into clinical practice by improving diagnosis and integrating novel therapeutic approaches. WashU has been a leader in quantitative molecular imaging since the field’s inception. The MR+IL team leverages excellence across the Departments of Radiology, Radiation Oncology, and the McKelvey School of Engineering to drive innovation for translational impact.

Some of our exciting recent work:

Alpha Particle Emitting Therapies Imaged on Clinical SPECT Systems

Targeted alpha particle radiotherapies (aRPT) are of great clinical and pharmaceutical interest because of their unique physical and biomedical properties. Precision approaches to measure the distribution and tumor targeting of these agents in humans is a considerable challenge. Comparing three leading aRPT isotopes (223Ra, 227Th and 225Ac), across three clinical SPECT systems from two vendors, and multiple collimator configurations, we put forward an important first step towards advancing a personalized theranostic paradigm.

Read more in Publications.

Imaging an anthropomorphic vertebral phantom filled with 40 kBq/mL Radium-223 on the GE Discovery 670.

Computational Imaging Improves Digital Autoradiography for Biomedical Applications

Digital autoradiography (DAR) is a core technique in the drug development toolkit for both radiopharmaceuticals and classical drug agents. Using a novel algorithm that iteratively improves both signal to noise ratio and decreases spurious background noise, we have implemented a first in field approach to significantly improve DAR for positron emitting diagnostics and alpha particle emitting therapies.

Use the slider on the image to the right to look at these dramatic effects on a standard research sample.

Read more in Publications.

Automated image denoise and resolution recovery on a preclinical [18F]-NaF murine tibia sample

Improving Prostate Cancer Treatment

Insights from in vivo models and in vitro systems of the pharmacokinetics and organ-specific interactions of Radium-223, a treatment for bone metastatic prostate cancer, have led to a novel combination therapy strategy that both improves treatment response and reduces off-target toxicities.

Read more in Publications.

Molecular Imaging of SARS-CoV-2 Receptor

The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by interaction of the highly permissive SARS-CoV-2 with host cell Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor. Persistent questions about virus dynamics and response to treatment may hinge on ACE2 expression levels. With our collaborators we have rapidly translated a high affinity ACE2-binding peptide to noninvasively and quantitatively assess ACE2 expression in mice, and in man.

Read more in Publications.

ACE2 PET