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      Focus Foundation Winter 2014

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      When Moritz F. Kircher, M.D., Ph.D., writes about his research, his enthusiasm is hard to contain. His work with MRI-Raman (MRI-R) nanoparticles is revealing new ways to visualize brain tumors.
       Dr. Kircher credits a Philips Healthcare/RSNA Research Resident Grant that he received in 2008 with jumpstarting his career. During his residency, he continued down the research path working on novel methods for molecular imaging and cell tracking. As a busy clinical fellow in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at Stanford University, he managed to simultaneously complete a postdoctoral fellowship with Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, M.D., Ph.D., at the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS), where Dr. Kircher started working on surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) imaging.
      Then in 2011, with the support of a Bayer HealthCare/RSNA Research Scholar Grant, Dr. Kircher began work to develop a new molecular approach to brain tumor imaging that allows both preoperative staging and intraoperative high-resolution image-guided tumor resection using a single injectable contrast agent.
       Dr. Kircher’s team used a novel dualmodality MRI-R nanoparticle, which they discovered could be detected by both MR imaging and surface- enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) imaging with very high sensitivity. Through this research, it was shown that this nanoparticle, which is stably retained by the brain tumor, allows three-dimensional visualization of brain tumors with MR imaging, and high-resolution guidance of tumor resection with Raman imaging in a mouse glioblastoma model.
       The research has already resulte in publications in prestigious journals such as Nature Medicine, Nature Clinical Reviews Oncology, Clinical Cancer Research and Radiology. In addition, Dr. Kircher was recently awarded $893,000 for a 5-year NIH K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (CA163961) from the National Cancer Institute, “A Combined Pre- and Intraoperative Brain Tumor Imaging Strategy using a Dual-Modality Raman-MRI Nanoparticle.”
       With an eye toward the future, Dr. Kircher and his colleagues have filed three patent applications and are currently planning to create a company around their Raman nanoparticles.
       “Both the 2008 Philips Healthcare/ RSNA Research Resident Grant and the 2011 Bayer HealthCare/RSNA Research Scholar Grant have been absolutely essential for my career development,” Dr. Kircher said. “These grants have provided me with the protected academic time needed to pursue my research endeavors. The RSNA Scholar Grant was my first extramural grant as a junior faculty member. It has resulted in ten additional successful grant applications in the first year after receiving the R&E grant, with a grant budget now totaling over $2,700,000. This funding has allowed me to build up a lab with currently seven postdoctoral fellows and one graduate student.” Dr. Kircher recently received the “Young Investigator Award” (1st place) at the 2012 World Molecular Imaging Conference for his work.
       Dr. Kircher concluded, “I could not be more thankful to RSNA and the donors who support the Foundation for jumpstarting my career.”

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