Wilburn E. Reddick, PhD
The Translational Imaging Research (TIR) division comprises imaging experts who are dedicated to translation of biomedical imaging technology into clinical and research programs that advance the St. Jude mission. The TIR faculty have diverse expertise and interests, and focus on innovation in the acquisition, processing, and modeling of biomedical images to capture critical information about the structure and function of biological systems.
TIR faculty and staff conduct collaborative research with investigators from nearly every major institutional and cancer center program to address major challenges in diagnosis (biology, staging), treatment (response, toxicity), and long-term survival (late effects, remediation) of most St. Jude patients. The division also has significant responsibilities to support clinical and small animal imaging, including safety, technology and physics, image and signal analysis, informatics, and clinical functional neuroimaging.
Researchers in the Translational Imaging are pioneering the use of a variation of functional MRI (fMRI) technology to study brain function in survivors of childhood cancers. fMRI tracks blood flow to functioning areas of the brain.
The aim of the work is to identify areas of the brain that cease to function normally following therapy for brain cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). This information is expected to help clinicians predict cognitive problems in children and track the efficacy of treatments to restore function.
The work, which has been published in the journal NeuroImage (Neuroimage 24:61-69, 2005), is an important first step in using BOLD (blood oxygen level-dependent functional MRI) to study cognitive deficits in survivors of childhood cancer, according to Robert Ogg, PhD, of Radiological Sciences and senior author of the report. BOLD fMRI measures brain activity indirectly through changes in the level of oxygen in blood. This work shows that despite possible damage done to blood vessels by therapy used to treat brain cancer or ALL, the BOLD response is still intact.
Follow-up studies are underway using BOLD fMRI to identify changes of function in specific areas of the brain that are associated with specific problems in cognitive development.
The BOLD fMRI studies are particularly important because, as cure rates for childhood cancers have increased in recent decades, the quality of life of long-term survivors has become of increasing concern.
This work formed the basis of the doctoral dissertation of Ping Zou, PhD, then at the University of Tennessee, and now a staff scientist at St. Jude.
An important goal of the Division of Translational Imaging is to quickly bring new advances from the “Bench to the Bedside.” One area in which we are making progress is in surgical planning MRI. By utilizing such techniques as functional MRI (fMRI) and Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), neuroradiologists and neurosurgeons can identify important structures of the brain related to language, movement, and vision. This information allows them to make informed decisions about treatment options and determine the safest approach to remove the tumor.
Initial studies at St. Jude have shown that pediatric neurosurgeons have benefited from the additional information provided by these kinds of techniques. This work was highlighted in Promise magazine, Winter 2004, page 8.
This independent research program focuses on using non-invasive MR technology to probe white matter damage resulting from radiological or pharmacological insult.
The loss of cerebral white matter and/or failure to develop white matter at an age appropriate rate is thought to at least partially account for the increased risk of cognitive delays or deficits that impair the academic performance, employment opportunities, and quality of life for long-term survivors. Basic research has focused on the development of innovative algorithms and methods to quantify the structure and integrity of cerebral white matter in vivo. Specific accomplishments include the development of a methodology to segment MR images of the pediatric brain into specific tissue classes even in the presence of abnormality.
This objective, highly reproducible methodology was essential for quantifying white matter abnormality and following the longitudinal development of both normal and abnormal cerebral white matter volumes during and after treatment.
Collaborative efforts with the Division of Behavioral Medicine have been able to associate atypical cerebral white matter volume development with deficits in neurocognitive functioning in survivors. Building on this experience, new studies have been designed combining radiation dosimetry maps with MR imaging measures of regional blood volume and diffusion anisotropy to investigate the integrity of white matter microvasculature and axonal myelin. Changes in microvasculature and myelin are hypothesized to precede the more global changes in cerebral white matter volume.
All this work is synergistic with other research efforts in functional MR imaging, white matter fiber tractography, adaptive contour modeling, and fractal analysis within the Division of Translational Imaging Research. Clinical research has translated this basic research into hypotheses driven objectives incorporated into treatment protocols in the Hematologic Malignancies, Neurobiology & Brain Tumor, and Cancer Prevention & Control Programs.
For more information, see the presentation.
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Division of Translational Imaging Research
MS 220, Room I3106
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN 38105-3678
Phone: (901) 595-2502
Fax: (901) 595-3981
Preferred contact method: email