The University of Colorado Cancer Center’s expertise in pre-clinical imaging is now recognized by leading institutions across the country. The CU Cancer Center is part of the Midwest Pre-Clinical Imaging Consortium, a group that meets annually to share expertise and best practices.

Vanderbilt University, Washington University, University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, Emory University, University of Notre Dame, and Johns Hopkins University also are part of the consortium. The group met for its third annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee in May 2017 to talk about leading-edge imaging, science productivity in managing imaging resources, shrinking user fees, and sharing big data. The NIH also participated in the meeting to support the sharing of information and encouraging collaboration on future imaging initiatives. This is the first year the CU Cancer Center is taking part.

Natalie Serkova, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center

Natalie Serkova, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, director of the Small Animal Imaging Shared Resource

“The consortium is made up of leading imaging centers sharing expertise and experience,” says Natalie Serkova, PhD, CU Cancer Center investigator and professor in the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Anesthesiology, Radiology and Radiation Oncology. “Sharing what we know with one another may not only advance preclinical imaging science, but also help fill individual gaps across the board. CU is well-positioned geographically to advance imaging science and education and to provide precise, high-level services regionally. The consortium members recognize that.”

The CU Cancer Center’s Animal Imaging Shared Resource (AISR) is the only state-of-the-art small animal imaging service in the state of Colorado facilitating pre-clinical and translational cancer research in our state and the Rocky Mountain region. The service is complex and requires advanced technical personnel and highly sensitive imaging equipment.

Mohammed Farhoud, a member of the organizing committee for the Midwest Pre-Clinical Imaging Consortium complemented Serkova on what she and her team have accomplished calling the CU Cancer Center impressive.

“This meeting started as a regional gathering and has expanded to include the entire country,” says Farhoud, director of product development at Emit Imaging. “That kind of growth would not be possible without the participation of CU Cancer Center. We look forward to collaborating with Dr. Serkova to improve pre-clinical imaging and sharing that knowledge will institutions from across the country.”

Serkova started the AISR in 2004 with a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Earlier this year, the pre-clinical imaging core received a $2 million NIH grant for a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. The new high-field 9.4 Tesla MRI will provide high-quality, high-resolution anatomical and functional images used as an essential step toward new precision medicines and treatments for cancer.

Serkova recognizes that federal funding is becoming more difficult to obtain, but she also is confident about the future of pre-clinical imaging at CU.

“You have to be consistent and expert at what you do,” says Serkova. “There are initiatives involving cross-campus collaboration that we will be applying for in the next year. Leadership at CU Anschutz is supportive. We are grateful for that.”

Serkova is referring to the NIH application process for funding of the Rocky Mountain Pre-Clinical imaging Center. The collaboration would include CU School of Medicine, CU Cancer Center, Colorado Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute, the Department of Radiology and the Department of Radiation Oncology. The imaging center, if funded, also would serve other specialties, such as neuroscience, cardiology, endocrinology, at CU and academic institutions in neighboring states.