OCT 30, 2014 10:30 AM PDT

Development of molecularly targeted imaging agents and identification of novel targets in cancer

  • Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia
      Dr. Kimberly Kelly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Systems and Policy in the School of Pharmacy and the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. She received her MS (1998) and PhD (2000) in social and health psychology from Rutgers University, her MS (2002) in genetic counseling from Indiana University, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in cancer control and behavioral science at the University of Kentucky (2002-2004). Before joining West Virginia University, Dr. Kelly was a member of the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology, and Medical Genetics, and was also affiliated with the Department of Psychology, Health Behavior and Health Promotion in the College of Public Health, the Primary Care Research Institute, and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Ohio State University. Three overlapping themes emerge from Dr. Kellys research: (1) cancer risk perception/communication, (2) health behavior (e.g., cancer screening, genetic testing), and (3) elevated risk populations (e.g., Appalachians, those with a family history of cancer). Her work relies on behavioral theory from psychology (health, social, cognitive), as well as communication and information sciences. She mixes qualitative and quantitative methods, utilizing clinic-based and community-based approaches. Most of her research has focused on how risk is communicated in the context of cancer genetic counseling and how risk perceptions differ from objective estimates of risk. She also examines the role of risk perception in cancer screening. Through her research, Dr. Kelly hopes to understand how best to enhance appropriate decision-making about health behaviors in elevated risk populations to accomplish optimal health outcomes. 


    The era of omics has ushered in the hope for personalized medicine. Proteomic and genomic strategies that allow unbiased identification of genes and proteins and their post-transcriptional and -translation modifications are an essential component to successful understanding of disease and the choice of imaging targets. However, the enormity of the genome and proteome and limitations in data analysis make it difficult to determine the targets that are particularly relevant to human disease and will be good targets for molecular imaging. Methods are therefore needed that allow rational identification of targets based on function, relevance to disease, and suitability for molecular imaging.

    Screening methodologies such as phage display, SELEX, and small-molecule combinatorial chemistry have been widely used to discover specific ligands for cells or tissues of interest. Those ligands can be used in turn as affinity probes to identify their cognate molecular targets when they are not known in advance. In addition, those ligands can be developed into molecularly targeted drug delivery and imaging agents.

    Through this lecture, we will explore one clinical scenario: pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) as an application for target identification, imaging and therapeutic agent development. PDAC is among the most lethal of human cancers due to its marked resistance to existing chemo- and radiotherapies. Unlike a number of other solid tumors, which have robust methods for early detection, there have been no significant improvements in PDAC survival over the past 40 years despite a large number of clinical trials of both conventional and targeted therapies. Like other solid cancers, early detection that allows complete surgical resection offers the best hope for longer survival, unfortunately, most patients are diagnosed with metastatic disease due to the lack of specific symptoms and absence of suitable biomarkers for early detection.

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