Honors & Awards


  • Training in Biomedical Imaging & Instrumentation (TBI2) Fellow, Stanford Bioengineering Department (2016-2017)
  • UC Regents Scholar, The Regents of the University of California (2010-2014)
  • Whitaker Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellow, Whitaker International Program (2014)
  • ThinkSwiss Research Scholarship, Embassy of Switzerland (2014)

Professional Affiliations and Activities


  • Member, Tau Beta Pi (2015 - Present)

Education & Certifications


  • Master of Science, Stanford University, BIOE-MS (2017)
  • Bachelor of Science, UC Davis, Biomedical Engineering (2015)

Service, Volunteer and Community Work


  • Stanford Science Penpals, Stanford University

    Mentor high school students via letter communication. Describe my current work and how I got here, and encourage the students to enter STEM fields.

    Location

    California

  • Mentor for Stanford Medical Youth Science Program, Stanford University

    Stanford Medical Youth Science Program is a five-week residential enrichment program focused on science and medicine that is open to low-income, underrepresented high school sophomores and juniors who live in Northern and Central California.

    During the summers of 2016, 2017, and 2018, I have served as a mentor for the participants. Activities included meeting up with them weekly for conversations and inspiration about entering the medical field. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

    Location

    Stanford, California

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


Biomedical Imaging and Instrumentation, Early Cancer Detection

Lab Affiliations


Work Experience


  • Pre-Graduate Research Intern, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (June 1, 2015 - August 31, 2015)

    Developed methods to improve tissue imaging on a light sheet microscope.

    Location

    Cambridge, Massachusetts

All Publications


  • Immune modulation resulting from MR-guided high intensity focused ultrasound in a model of murine breast cancer. Scientific reports Fite, B. Z., Wang, J., Kare, A. J., Ilovitsh, A., Chavez, M., Ilovitsh, T., Zhang, N., Chen, W., Robinson, E., Zhang, H., Kheirolomoom, A., Silvestrini, M. T., Ingham, E. S., Mahakian, L. M., Tam, S. M., Davis, R. R., Tepper, C. G., Borowsky, A. D., Ferrara, K. W. 2021; 11 (1): 927

    Abstract

    High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) rapidly and non-invasively destroys tumor tissue. Here, we sought to assess the immunomodulatory effects of MR-guided HIFU and its combination with the innate immune agonist CpG and checkpoint inhibitor anti-PD-1. Mice with multi-focal breast cancer underwent ablation with a parameter set designed to achieve mechanical disruption with minimal thermal dose or a protocol in which tumor temperature reached 65°C. Mice received either HIFU alone or were primed with the toll-like receptor 9 agonist CpG and the checkpoint modulator anti-PD-1. Both mechanical HIFU and thermal ablation induced a potent inflammatory response with increased expression of Nlrp3, Jun, Mefv, Il6 and Il1beta and alterations in macrophage polarization compared to control. Furthermore, HIFU upregulated multiple innate immune receptors and immune pathways, including Nod1, Nlrp3, Aim2, Ctsb, Tlr1/2/4/7/8/9, Oas2, and RhoA. The inflammatory response was largely sterile and consistent with wound-healing. Priming with CpG attenuated Il6 and Nlrp3 expression, further upregulated expression of Nod2, Oas2, RhoA, Pycard, Tlr1/2 and Il12, and enhanced T-cell number and activation while polarizing macrophages to an anti-tumor phenotype. The tumor-specific antigen, cytokines and cell debris liberated by HIFU enhance response to innate immune agonists.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-020-80135-1

    View details for PubMedID 33441763

  • Molecular Imaging of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells by ICOS-ImmunoPET. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research Simonetta, F., Alam, I. S., Lohmeyer, J. K., Sahaf, B., Good, Z., Chen, W., Xiao, Z., Hirai, T., Scheller, L., Engels, P., Vermesh, O., Robinson, E., Haywood, T., Sathirachinda, A., Baker, J., Malipatlolla, M. B., Schultz, L. M., Spiegel, J. Y., Lee, J. T., Miklos, D. B., Mackall, C. L., Gambhir, S. S., Negrin, R. 2020

    Abstract

    PURPOSE: Immunomonitoring of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells relies primarily on their quantification in the peripheral blood, which inadequately quantifies their biodistribution and activation status in the tissues. Non-invasive molecular imaging of CAR T cells by positron emission tomography (PET) is a promising approach with the ability to provide spatial, temporal and functional information. Reported strategies rely on the incorporation of reporter transgenes or ex vivo biolabeling, significantly limiting the application of CAR T cell molecular imaging. In the present study, we assessed the ability of antibody-based PET (immunoPET) to non-invasively visualize CAR T cells.EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: After analyzing human CAR T cells in vitro and ex vivo from patient samples to identify candidate targets for immunoPET, we employed a syngeneic, orthotopic murine tumor model of lymphoma to assess the feasibility of in vivo tracking of CAR T cells by immunoPET using the 89Zr-DFO-anti-ICOS tracer we previously reported.RESULTS: Analysis of human CD19-CAR T cells during activation identified the Inducible T-cell COStimulator (ICOS) as a potential target for immunoPET. In a preclinical tumor model, 89Zr-DFO-ICOS mAb PET-CT imaging detected significantly higher signal in specific bone marrow-containing skeletal sites of CAR T cell treated mice compared with controls. Importantly, administration of ICOS-targeting antibodies at tracer doses did not interfere with CAR T cell persistence and function.CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the potential of ICOS-immunoPET imaging for monitoring of CAR T cell therapy, a strategy readily applicable to both commercially available and investigational CAR T cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-2770

    View details for PubMedID 33087332

  • PET reporter gene imaging and ganciclovir-mediated ablation of chimeric antigen receptor T-cells in solid tumors. Cancer research Murty, S., Labanieh, L., Murty, T., Gowrishankar, G., Haywood, T., Alam, I. S., Beinat, C., Robinson, E., Aalipour, A., Klysz, D. D., Cochran, J. R., Majzner, R. G., Mackall, C. L., Gambhir, S. S. 2020

    Abstract

    Imaging strategies to monitor chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell biodistribution and proliferation harbor the potential to facilitate clinical translation for the treatment of both liquid and solid tumors. Additionally, the potential adverse effects of CAR T-cells highlight the need for mechanisms to modulate CAR T-cell activity. The herpes simplex virus type 1 thymidine kinase (HSV1-tk) gene has previously been translated as a positron emission tomography (PET) reporter gene for imaging of T-cell trafficking in brain tumor patients. The HSV1-TK enzyme can act as a suicide gene of transduced cells through treatment with the prodrug ganciclovir (GCV). Here we report the molecular engineering, imaging, and GCV-mediated destruction of B7H3 CAR T-cells incorporating a mutated version of the HSV1-tk gene (sr39tk) with improved enzymatic activity for GCV. The sr39tk gene did not affect B7H3 CAR T-cell functionality and in vitro and in vivo studies in osteosarcoma models showed no significant effect on B7H3 CAR T-cell antitumor activity. PET/CT imaging with 9-(4-[18F]-fluoro-3-[hydroxymethyl]butyl)guanine [18F]FHBG of B7H3-sr39tk CAR T-cells in an orthotopic model of osteosarcoma revealed tumor homing and systemic immune expansion. Bioluminescence and PET imaging of B7H3-sr39tk CAR T-cells confirmed complete tumor ablation with intraperitoneal GCV administration. This imaging and suicide ablation system can provide insight into CAR T-cell migration and proliferation during clinical trials while serving as a suicide switch to limit potential toxicities.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-3579

    View details for PubMedID 32958548

  • Reconstructed Apoptotic Bodies as Targeted "Nano Decoys" to Treat Intracellular Bacterial Infections within Macrophages and Cancer Cells. ACS nano Bose, R. J., Tharmalingam, N. n., Garcia Marques, F. J., Sukumar, U. K., Natarajan, A. n., Zeng, Y. n., Robinson, E. n., Bermudez, A. n., Chang, E. n., Habte, F. n., Pitteri, S. J., McCarthy, J. R., Gambhir, S. S., Massoud, T. F., Mylonakis, E. n., Paulmurugan, R. n. 2020

    Abstract

    Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a highly pathogenic facultative anaerobe that in some instances resides as an intracellular bacterium within macrophages and cancer cells. This pathogen can establish secondary infection foci, resulting in recurrent systemic infections that are difficult to treat using systemic antibiotics. Here, we use reconstructed apoptotic bodies (ReApoBds) derived from cancer cells as "nano decoys" to deliver vancomycin intracellularly to kill S. aureus by targeting inherent "eat me" signaling of ApoBds. We prepared ReApoBds from different cancer cells (SKBR3, MDA-MB-231, HepG2, U87-MG, and LN229) and used them for vancomycin delivery. Physicochemical characterization showed ReApoBds size ranges from 80 to 150 nm and vancomycin encapsulation efficiency of 60 ± 2.56%. We demonstrate that the loaded vancomycin was able to kill intracellular S. aureus efficiently in an in vitro model of S. aureus infected RAW-264.7 macrophage cells, and U87-MG (p53-wt) and LN229 (p53-mt) cancer cells, compared to free-vancomycin treatment (P < 0.001). The vancomycin loaded ReApoBds treatment in S. aureus infected macrophages showed a two-log-order higher CFU reduction than the free-vancomycin treatment group. In vivo studies revealed that ReApoBds can specifically target macrophages and cancer cells. Vancomycin loaded ReApoBds have the potential to kill intracellular S. aureus infection in vivo in macrophages and cancer cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acsnano.0c00921

    View details for PubMedID 32347709

  • Molecular Imaging of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells by ICOS-ImmunoPET Clinical cancer research: an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research Alam*, I. S., Simonetta*, F. 2020: 1058–68

    Abstract

    Immunomonitoring of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells relies primarily on their quantification in the peripheral blood, which inadequately quantifies their biodistribution and activation status in the tissues. Noninvasive molecular imaging of CAR T cells by PET is a promising approach with the ability to provide spatial, temporal, and functional information. Reported strategies rely on the incorporation of reporter transgenes or ex vivo biolabeling, significantly limiting the application of CAR T-cell molecular imaging. In this study, we assessed the ability of antibody-based PET (immunoPET) to noninvasively visualize CAR T cells.After analyzing human CAR T cells in vitro and ex vivo from patient samples to identify candidate targets for immunoPET, we employed a syngeneic, orthotopic murine tumor model of lymphoma to assess the feasibility of in vivo tracking of CAR T cells by immunoPET using the 89Zr-DFO-anti-ICOS tracer, which we have previously reported.Analysis of human CD19-CAR T cells during activation identified the Inducible T-cell COStimulator (ICOS) as a potential target for immunoPET. In a preclinical tumor model, 89Zr-DFO-ICOS mAb PET-CT imaging detected significantly higher signal in specific bone marrow-containing skeletal sites of CAR T-cell-treated mice compared with controls. Importantly, administration of ICOS-targeting antibodies at tracer doses did not interfere with CAR T-cell persistence and function.This study highlights the potential of ICOS-immunoPET imaging for monitoring of CAR T-cell therapy, a strategy readily applicable to both commercially available and investigational CAR T cells.See related commentary by Volpe et al., p. 911.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-2770

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7887027

  • Ultrasound/microbubble-mediated targeted delivery of anticancer microRNA-loaded nanoparticles to deep tissues in pigs. Journal of controlled release : official journal of the Controlled Release Society Di Ianni, T., Bose, R. J., Sukumar, U. K., Bachawal, S., Wang, H., Telichko, A., Herickhoff, C., Robinson, E., Baker, S., Vilches-Moure, J. G., Felt, S. A., Gambhir, S. S., Paulmurugan, R., Dahl, J. D. 2019

    Abstract

    In this study, we designed and validated a platform for ultrasound and microbubble-mediated delivery of FDA-approved pegylated poly lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) nanoparticles loaded with anticancer microRNAs (miRNAs) to deep tissues in a pig model. Small RNAs have been shown to reprogram tumor cells and sensitize them to clinically used chemotherapy. To overcome their short intravascular circulation half-life and achieve controlled and sustained release into tumor cells, anticancer miRNAs need to be encapsulated into nanocarriers. Focused ultrasound combined with gas-filled microbubbles provides a noninvasive way to improve the permeability of tumor vasculature and increase the delivery efficiency of drug-loaded particles. A single handheld, curvilinear ultrasound array was used in this study for image-guided therapy with clinical-grade SonoVue contrast agent. First, we validated the platform on phantoms to optimize the microbubble cavitation dose based on acoustic parameters, including peak negative pressure, pulse length, and pulse repetition frequency. We then tested the system in vivo by delivering PLGA nanoparticles co-loaded with antisense-miRNA-21 and antisense-miRNA-10b to pig liver and kidney. Enhanced miRNA delivery was observed (1.9- to 3.7-fold increase) as a result of the ultrasound treatment compared to untreated control regions. Additionally, we used highly fluorescent semiconducting polymer nanoparticles to visually assess nanoparticle extravasation. Fluorescent microscopy suggested the presence of nanoparticles in the extravascular compartment. Hematoxylin and eosin staining of treated tissues did not reveal tissue damage. The results presented in this manuscript suggest that the proposed platform may be used to safely and noninvasively enhance the delivery of miRNA-loaded nanoparticles to target regions in deep organs in large animal models.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jconrel.2019.07.024

    View details for PubMedID 31326463

  • Intranasal delivery of targeted polyfunctional gold-iron oxide nanoparticles loaded with therapeutic microRNAs for combined theranostic multimodality imaging and presensitization of glioblastoma to temozolomide. Biomaterials Sukumar, U. K., Bose, R. J., Malhotra, M., Babikir, H. A., Afjei, R., Robinson, E., Zeng, Y., Chang, E., Habte, F., Sinclair, R., Gambhir, S. S., Massoud, T. F., Paulmurugan, R. 2019; 218: 119342

    Abstract

    The prognosis for glioblastoma (GBM) remains depressingly low. The biological barriers of the brain present a major challenge to achieving adequate drug concentrations for GBM therapy. To address this, we explore the potential of the nose-to-brain direct transport pathway to bypass the blood-brain barrier, and to enable targeted delivery of theranostic polyfunctional gold-iron oxide nanoparticles (polyGIONs) surface loaded with therapeutic miRNAs (miR-100 and antimiR-21) to GBMs in mice. These nanoformulations would thus allow presensitization of GBM cells to the systemically delivered chemotherapy drug temozolomide (TMZ), as well as in vivo multimodality molecular and anatomic imaging of nanoparticle delivery, trafficking, and treatment effects. First, we synthesized GIONs coated with beta-cyclodextrin-chitosan (CD-CS) hybrid polymer, and co-loaded with miR-100 and antimiR-21. Then we decorated their surface with PEG-T7 peptide using CD-adamantane host-guest chemistry. The resultant polyGIONs showed efficient miRNA loading with enhanced serum stability. We characterized them for particle size, PDI, polymer functionalization, charge and release using dynamic light scattering analysis, TEM and qRT-PCR. For in vivo intranasal delivery, we used U87-MG GBM cell-derived orthotopic xenograft models in mice. Intranasal delivery resulted in efficient accumulation of Cy5-miRNAs in mice treated with T7-targeted polyGIONs, as demonstrated by in vivo optical fluorescence and MR imaging. We measured the therapeutic response of these FLUC-EGFP labelled U87-MG GBMs using bioluminescence imaging. Overall, there was a significant increase in survival of mice co-treated with T7-polyGIONs loaded with miR-100/antimiR-21 plus systemic TMZ, compared to the untreated control group, or the animals receiving non-targeted polyGIONs-miR-100/antimiR-21, or TMZ alone. Once translated clinically, this novel theranostic nanoformulation and its associated intranasal delivery strategy will have a strong potential to potentiate the effects of TMZ treatment in GBM patients.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2019.119342

    View details for PubMedID 31326657

  • Engineered immune cells as highly sensitive cancer diagnostics NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY Aalipour, A., Chuang, H., Murty, S., D'Souza, A. L., Park, S., Gulati, G. S., Patel, C. B., Beinat, C., Simonetta, F., Martinic, I., Gowrishankar, G., Robinson, E. R., Aalipour, E., Zhian, Z., Gambhir, S. S. 2019; 37 (5): 531-+
  • The characterization of 18F-hGTS13 for molecular imaging of xC- transporter activity with positron emission tomography. Journal of nuclear medicine : official publication, Society of Nuclear Medicine Beinat, C. n., Gowrishankar, G. n., Shen, B. n., Alam, I. S., Robinson, E. n., Haywood, T. n., Patel, C. B., Azevedo, E. C., Castillo, J. n., Ilovich, O. n., Koglin, N. n., Schmitt-Willich, H. n., Berndt, M. n., Mueller, A. n., Zerna, M. n., Srinivasan, A. n., Gambhir, S. S. 2019

    Abstract

    Purpose: The aim of this study was development of an improved positron emission tomography (PET) radiotracer for measuring xC- activity with increased tumor uptake and reduced uptake in inflammatory cells compared to (S)-4-(3-18F-Fluoropropyl)-L-glutamic acid (18F-FSPG). Experimental design: A racemic glutamate derivative, 18F-hGTS13 was evaluated in cell culture and animal tumor models. 18F-hGTS13 was separated into C5-epimers and the corresponding 18F-hGTS13-isomer1 and 18F-hGTS13-isomer2 evaluated in H460 tumor bearing rats. Preliminary studies investigate the cellular uptake of 18F-hGTS13-isomer2 in multiple immune cell populations and states. Results:18F-hGTS13 demonstrated excellent H460 tumor visualization with high tumor-to-background ratios, confirmed by ex vivo biodistribution studies. Tumor associated radioactivity of 18F-hGTS13 (7.5±0.9%ID/g, n = 3) was significantly higher than with 18F-FSPG (4.6±0.7%ID/g, n = 3, P = 0.01). 18F-hGTS13-isomer2 exhibited excellent H460 tumor visualization (6.3±1.1%ID/g, n-3), and significantly reduced uptake in multiple immune cell populations relative to 18F-FSPG. 18F-hGTS13-isomer2 exhibited increased liver uptake relative to 18F-FSPG (4.6±0.8%ID/g vs. 0.7±0.01%ID/g) limiting its application in hepatocellular carcinoma. Conclusion:18F-hGTS13-isomer2 is a new PET radiotracer for molecular imaging of xC- activity which may provide information regarding tumor oxidation states. 18F-hGTS13-isomer2 has potential for clinical translation for imaging cancers of the thorax due to the low background signal in healthy tissue.

    View details for DOI 10.2967/jnumed.119.225870

    View details for PubMedID 31171595

  • Engineered immune cells as highly sensitive cancer diagnostics. Nature biotechnology Aalipour, A. n., Chuang, H. Y., Murty, S. n., D'Souza, A. L., Park, S. M., Gulati, G. S., Patel, C. B., Beinat, C. n., Simonetta, F. n., Martinić, I. n., Gowrishankar, G. n., Robinson, E. R., Aalipour, E. n., Zhian, Z. n., Gambhir, S. S. 2019

    Abstract

    Endogenous biomarkers remain at the forefront of early disease detection efforts, but many lack the sensitivities and specificities necessary to influence disease management. Here, we describe a cell-based in vivo sensor for highly sensitive early cancer detection. We engineer macrophages to produce a synthetic reporter on adopting an M2 tumor-associated metabolic profile by coupling luciferase expression to activation of the arginase-1 promoter. After adoptive transfer in colorectal and breast mouse tumor models, the engineered macrophages migrated to the tumors and activated arginase-1 so that they could be detected by bioluminescence imaging and luciferase measured in the blood. The macrophage sensor detected tumors as small as 25-50 mm3 by blood luciferase measurements, even in the presence of concomitant inflammation, and was more sensitive than clinically used protein and nucleic acid cancer biomarkers. Macrophage sensors also effectively tracked the immunological response in muscle and lung models of inflammation, suggesting the potential utility of this approach in disease states other than cancer.

    View details for PubMedID 30886438

  • Tumor Cell-Derived Extracellular Vesicle-Coated Nanocarriers: An Efficient Theranostic Platform for the Cancer-Specific Delivery of Anti-miR-21 and Imaging Agents. ACS nano Jc Bose, R. n., Uday Kumar, S. n., Zeng, Y. n., Afjei, R. n., Robinson, E. n., Lau, K. n., Bermudez, A. n., Habte, F. n., Pitteri, S. J., Sinclair, R. n., Willmann, J. K., Massoud, T. F., Gambhir, S. S., Paulmurugan, R. n. 2018

    Abstract

    MicroRNAs are critical regulators of cancer initiation, progression, and dissemination. Extensive evidence suggests that the inhibition of over-expressed oncogenic miRNA function can be a robust strategy for anticancer therapy. However, in vivo targeted delivery of miRNA therapeutics to various types of cancers remains a major challenge. Inspired by their natural synthesis and cargo delivery capabilities, researchers have exploited tumor cell-derived extracellular vesicles (TEVs) for the cancer-targeted delivery of therapeutics and theranostics. Here, we investigate a TEV-based nanoplatform for multimodal miRNA delivery and phototherapy treatments as well as the magnetic resonance imaging of cancer. We demonstrated loading of anti-miR-21 that blocks the function of endogenous oncogenic miR-21 over-expressed in cancer cells into and subsequent delivery by TEVs derived from 4T1 cells. We also produced Cy5-anti-miR-21-loaded TEVs from two other cancer cell lines (HepG2 and SKBR3) and confirmed their robust homologous and heterologous transfection efficiency and intracellular Cy5-anti-miR-21 delivery. Additionally, TEV-mediated anti-miR-21 delivery attenuated doxorubicin (DOX) resistance in breast cancer cells with a 3-fold higher cell kill efficiency than in cells treated with DOX alone. We then investigated TEVs as a biomimetic source for the functionalization of gold-iron oxide nanoparticles (GIONs) and demonstrated nanotheranostic properties of TEV-GIONs in vitro. TEV-GIONs demonstrated excellent T2 contrast in in vitro magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and resulted in efficient photothermal effect in 4T1 cells. We also evaluated the biodistribution and theranostic property of anti-miR-21 loaded TEV-GIONs in vivo by labeling with indocyanine green near-infrared dye. We further validated the tumor specific accumulation of TEV-GIONs using MR imaging. Our findings demonstrate that the distribution pattern of the TEV-anti-miR-21-GIONs correlated well with the tumor-targeting capability as well as the activity and efficacy obtained in response to doxorubicin combination treatments. TEVs and TEV-GIONs are promising nanotheranostics for future applications in cancer molecular imaging and therapy.

    View details for PubMedID 30346694