Date of Award

Fall 12-8-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Jenny Yang


The application of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to non-invasively assess disease biomarkers has been hampered by lack of desired contrast agents with high relaxivity, targeting capability, and optimized pharmacokinetics. We developed a novel MRI probe which targets HER2, a biomarker for various cancers and a target for anti-cancer therapies. This multimodal HER2-targeted MRI probe integrates a rationally designed protein contrast agent with a high affinity HER2 affibody and near IR dye. Our probe can differentially monitor tumors with different HER2 levels in both cells and xenograft mice. In addition to its 10-fold higher dose efficiency compared to clinically-approved agent DTPA, our developed agent also exhibits advantages in crossing the endothelial boundary, tissue distribution, and tumor tissue retention as demonstrated by even distribution of the imaging probe across the entire tumor mass. Additionally, a second series of protein contrast agents that included affibody against EFGR developed with the capability to specifically target EGFR. These contrast agents have been utilized to monitor drug treatments and quantitatively analyze biomarker expression level. Furthermore, we anticipate these agents will provide powerful tools for quantitative assessment of molecular markers, and improved resolution for diagnosis, prognosis and drug discovery.