Professor Phillip Blower
Most trials of cell based therapies measure clinical end points that may take weeks to months to demonstrate efficacy, with little knowledge of the in vivo fate and behaviour of administered cells. The questions “where do the cells go after administration?” “how long do the cells survive in vivo?” “Do they proliferate and differentiate?” are now being asked in clinical trials and animal models. In principle, methods to help answer them using imaging methods have been available since the 1980, when cell tracking using gamma emitting radioisotopes became routine to detect sites of inflammation using autologous leukocytes. The advent of widely available PET offers opportunities to replace gamma emitters with positron emitters, with benefits in improved resolution and sensitivity. These methods offer the potential to track cells for several days after administration. For long term monitoring, reporter gene imaging can be used, whereby the administered cells are engineered to express a specific molecular target that can be imaged repeatedly, in principle for the lifetime of the patient or the administered cells, using a radiolabelled probe. Similar principles can be used for magnetic resonance and optical imaging. Recent progress in methodology and clinical translation of cell tracking for these methods, with a particular focus on short and long half life radionuclide methods and reporter genes, will be described and challenges for further development outlined.
Since 2006 Phil Blower has been at King’s College London as Chair in Imaging Chemistry in the Division of Imaging Sciences and Biomedical Engineering and Head of the Imaging Chemistry and Biology Dept. His interdisciplinary research group covers radiopharmaceutical chemistry and biology for PET, SPECT and radionuclide therapy, with contributions from all parts of the periodic table to nuclear medicine. He is PI or co-PI on current grants worth about £25m. He has published more than 150 peer-reviewed papers and supervised around 30 successful PhD students. He served as Head of the new Chemistry Division and its undergraduate programme at King’s, inaugurated in 2012. He has served as Editor in Chief of Nuclear Medicine Communications. His path to this point followed a BA in Natural Sciences (Cambridge) and DPhil in Chemistry (Sussex), and postdoctoral experience in inorganic chemistry at Indiana University and Oxford University. His first academic post was a joint appointment at Kent and Canterbury Hospital (Radiopharmacy) and the University of Kent (Biosciences), where he led the earliest clinical evaluation of Re-186 and Re-188 targeted therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals and pioneered use of copper radionuclides for PET in Europe.