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Dr. Niki M. Zacharias Millward

Dr. Niki M. Zacharias Millward

Associate Member

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Experimental Diagnostic Imaging

As a chemist, my goal is to use chemistry and biochemistry to design imaging probes and develop these probes from the bench to the clinic.  The broad goal of my research and my ongoing contribution to the field of experimental diagnostic imaging is to develop the capability of early diagnosis and monitoring cancer therapy in rodents in real time using hyperpolarization and eventually translating the results to clinic.   Hyperpolarization by increasing the sensitivity of conventional MR over 50,000 fold has potential for early detection and selection of therapies for individual cancer patients. The five areas of research my lab is currently working on are a) synthesis and polarization of new imaging and metabolic compounds using Parahydrogen Induced Polarization (PHIP) and Dynamic Nuclear Polarization (DNP) with compounds containing either the non-radioactive isotopes 13C, 15N, 29Si, or a combination. These molecules are small molecules, larger nanoparticles, and polymers b) new imaging/spectroscopy protocols for 13C, 15N, and 29Si as applied to in vivo (rodent) hyperpolarization trials c) application of hyperpolarized molecules in in vivo applications to different mice models of cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases d) combining the in vivo metabolic imaging data with the metabolic profiles seen with the incubation of contrast agents in cell culture and monitoring the metabolic products using high field NMR e) using bioreactors and 3D cell culture and hyperpolarized agents to interrogate the metabolic cycles of different cancer cell lines

Projects/Techniques:  A student in my lab will learn how to perform magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy and will hyperpolarize different molecules for imaging and spectroscopy studies.  My lab works at the interface of biology, chemistry, and imaging.  The student will get an understanding of how these three areas have to be used in concert with each other to create a useful metabolic or molecular imaging probe.  We currently have projects using metabolic imaging to diagnosis prostate cancer, lymphoma, and breast cancer.   However, other areas of cancer research can easily be explored with molecular and metabolic imaging in the lab. 

MDACC Faculty

Contact Information

Phone: 713.792.5226


Office: MDA ER1.505 (Unit 603)

Title: Assistant Professor


Ph.D. - California Institute of Technology - 2003