Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, National Yang-Ming University (2016)
  • Master of Science, National Yang-Ming University (2009)
  • Bachelor of Science, National Yang-Ming University (2007)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • A PET Imaging Strategy to Visualize Activated T Cells in Acute Graft-versus-Host Disease Elicited by Allogenic Hematopoietic Cell Transplant. Cancer research Ronald, J. A., Kim, B., Gowrishankar, G., Namavari, M., Alam, I. S., D'Souza, A., Nishikii, H., Chuang, H., Ilovich, O., Lin, C., Reeves, R., Shuhendler, A., Hoehne, A., Chan, C. T., Baker, J., Yaghoubi, S. S., VanBrocklin, H. F., Hawkins, R., Franc, B. L., Jivan, S., Slater, J. B., Verdin, E. F., Gao, K. T., Benjamin, J., Negrin, R., Gambhir, S. S. 2017; 77 (11): 2893-2902


    A major barrier to successful use of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation is acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD), a devastating condition that arises when donor T cells attack host tissues. With current technologies, aGVHD diagnosis is typically made after end-organ injury and often requires invasive tests and tissue biopsies. This affects patient prognosis as treatments are dramatically less effective at late disease stages. Here, we show that a novel PET radiotracer, 2'-deoxy-2'-[18F]fluoro-9-β-D-arabinofuranosylguanine ([18F]F-AraG), targeted toward two salvage kinase pathways preferentially accumulates in activated primary T cells. [18F]F-AraG PET imaging of a murine aGVHD model enabled visualization of secondary lymphoid organs harboring activated donor T cells prior to clinical symptoms. Tracer biodistribution in healthy humans showed favorable kinetics. This new PET strategy has great potential for early aGVHD diagnosis, enabling timely treatments and improved patient outcomes. [18F]F-AraG may be useful for imaging activated T cells in various biomedical applications. Cancer Res; 77(11); 2893-902. ©2017 AACR.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-16-2953

    View details for PubMedID 28572504

  • Artificial MicroRNAs as Novel Secreted Reporters for Cell Monitoring in Living Subjects. PloS one Ronald, J. A., D'Souza, A. L., Chuang, H., Gambhir, S. S. 2016; 11 (7)


    Reporter genes are powerful technologies that can be used to directly inform on the fate of transplanted cells in living subjects. Imaging reporter genes are often employed to quantify cell number, location(s), and viability with various imaging modalities. To complement this, reporters that are secreted from cells can provide a low-cost, in vitro diagnostic test to monitor overall cell viability at relatively high frequency without knowing the locations of all cells. Whereas protein-based secretable reporters have been developed, an RNA-based reporter detectable with amplification inherent PCR-based assays has not been previously described. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs (18-22 nt) that regulate mRNA translation and are being explored as relatively stable blood-based disease biomarkers. We developed an artificial miRNA-based secreted reporter, called Sec-miR, utilizing a coding sequence that is not expressed endogenously and does not have any known vertebrate target. Sec-miR was detectable in both the cells and culture media of transiently transfected cells. Cells stably expressing Sec-miR also reliably secreted it into the culture media. Mice implanted with parental HeLa cells or HeLa cells expressing both Sec-miR and the bioluminescence imaging (BLI) reporter gene Firefly luciferase (FLuc) were monitored over time for tumor volume, FLuc signal via BLI, and blood levels of Sec-miR. Significantly (p<0.05) higher Sec-miR was found in the blood of mice bearing Sec-miR-expressing tumors compared to parental cell tumors at 21 and 28 days after implantation. Importantly, blood Sec-miR reporter levels after day 21 showed a trend towards correlation with tumor volume (R2 = 0.6090; p = 0.0671) and significantly correlated with FLuc signal (R2 = 0.7067; p<0.05). Finally, we could significantly (p<0.01) amplify Sec-miR secretion into the cell media by chaining together multiple Sec-miR copies (4 instead of 1 or 2) within an expression cassette. Overall, we show that a novel complement of BLI together with a unique Sec-miR reporter adds an in vitro RNA-based diagnostic to enhance the monitoring of transplanted cells. While Sec-miR was not as sensitive as BLI for monitoring cell number, it may be more sensitive than clinically-relevant positron emission tomography (PET) reporter assays. Future work will focus on improving cell detectability via improved secretion of Sec-miR reporters from cells and more sensitive detection platforms, as well as, exploring other miRNA sequences to allow multiplexed monitoring of more than one cell population at a time. Continued development may lead to more refined and precise monitoring of cell-based therapies.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0159369

    View details for PubMedID 27442530

  • Detecting cancers through tumor-activatable minicircles that lead to a detectable blood biomarker. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Ronald, J. A., Chuang, H., Dragulescu-Andrasi, A., Hori, S. S., Gambhir, S. S. 2015; 112 (10): 3068-3073


    Earlier detection of cancers can dramatically improve the efficacy of available treatment strategies. However, despite decades of effort on blood-based biomarker cancer detection, many promising endogenous biomarkers have failed clinically because of intractable problems such as highly variable background expression from nonmalignant tissues and tumor heterogeneity. In this work we present a tumor-detection strategy based on systemic administration of tumor-activatable minicircles that use the pan-tumor-specific Survivin promoter to drive expression of a secretable reporter that is detectable in the blood nearly exclusively in tumor-bearing subjects. After systemic administration we demonstrate a robust ability to differentiate mice bearing human melanoma metastases from tumor-free subjects for up to 2 wk simply by measuring blood reporter levels. Cumulative change in reporter levels also identified tumor-bearing subjects, and a receiver operator-characteristic curve analysis highlighted this test's performance with an area of 0.918 ± 0.084. Lung tumor burden additionally correlated (r(2) = 0.714; P < 0.05) with cumulative reporter levels, indicating that determination of disease extent was possible. Continued development of our system could improve tumor detectability dramatically because of the temporally controlled, high reporter expression in tumors and nearly zero background from healthy tissues. Our strategy's highly modular nature also allows it to be iteratively optimized over time to improve the test's sensitivity and specificity. We envision this system could be used first in patients at high risk for tumor recurrence, followed by screening high-risk populations before tumor diagnosis, and, if proven safe and effective, eventually may have potential as a powerful cancer-screening tool for the general population.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1414156112

    View details for PubMedID 25713388

  • Development and validation of non-integrative, self-limited, and replicating minicircles for safe reporter gene imaging of cell-based therapies. PloS one Ronald, J. A., Cusso, L., Chuang, H., Yan, X., Dragulescu-Andrasi, A., Gambhir, S. S. 2013; 8 (8)


    Reporter gene (RG) imaging of cell-based therapies provides a direct readout of therapeutic efficacy by assessing the fate of implanted cells. To permit long-term cellular imaging, RGs are traditionally required to be integrated into the cellular genome. This poses a potential safety risk and regulatory bottleneck for clinical translation as integration can lead to cellular transformation. To address this issue, we have developed non-integrative, replicating minicircles (MCs) as an alternative platform for safer monitoring of cells in living subjects. We developed both plasmids and minicircles containing the scaffold/matrix attachment regions (S/MAR) of the human interferon-beta gene, driven by the CMV promoter, and expressing the bioluminescence RG firefly luciferase. Constructs were transfected into breast cancer cells, and expanded S/MAR minicircle clones showed luciferase signal for greater than 3 months in culture and minicircles remained as episomes. Importantly, luciferase activity in clonal populations was slowly lost over time and this corresponded to a loss of episome, providing a way to reversibly label cells. To monitor cell proliferation in vivo, 1.5×10(6) cells carrying the S/MAR minicircle were implanted subcutaneously into mice (n = 5) and as tumors developed significantly more bioluminescence signal was noted at day 35 and 43 compared to day 7 post-implant (p<0.05). To our knowledge, this is the first work examining the use of episomal, self-limited, replicating minicircles to track the proliferation of cells using non-invasive imaging in living subjects. Continued development of S/MAR minicircles will provide a broadly applicable vector platform amenable with any of the numerous RG technologies available to allow therapeutic cell fate to be assessed in individual patients, and to achieve this without the need to manipulate the cell's genome so that safety concerns are minimized. This will lead to safe tools to assess treatment response at earlier time points and improve the precision of cell-based therapies.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0073138

    View details for PubMedID 24015294

  • Immunomodulation of Curcumin on Adoptive Therapy with T Cell Functional Imaging in Mice CANCER PREVENTION RESEARCH Chang, Y., Chuang, H., Hsu, C., Liu, R., Gambhir, S. S., Hwang, J. 2012; 5 (3): 444-452


    Adoptive T-cell therapy involves the ex vivo expansion and subsequent transfusion of tumor-specific T lymphocytes to eliminate tumors. Using immune modulators to block immunosuppressive factors in the tumor microenvironment has emerged as a promising strategy to enhance T-cell-mediated tumor regression. Curcumin, a major component of turmeric, has been shown to possess antitumor and immunomodulatory effects by regulating a diverse range of molecular targets. Thus, we hypothesize that these beneficial effects of curcumin may improve the therapeutic efficacy of adoptive therapy. Here, we have shown that curcumin enhances cytotoxicity of CD8(+) T cells toward tumors via alteration of the tumor microenvironment when combined with adoptive therapy. We found that T-cell accumulation and function were increased in combined treatment due to the blockade of different immunosuppressors, including TGF-β, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, and regulatory T cells. Furthermore, bioluminescent imaging with a granzyme B promoter-conjugated optical reporter also reflected improved cytotoxicity of antigen-specific CD8(+) T cells in tumor-bearing mice during treatment. These findings suggest that combination of multitargeting drugs, such as curcumin, with adoptive therapy may have potential for clinical application. In addition, using a granzyme B-specific imaging reporter to assess T-cell function may also be applied for the development and therapeutic evaluation of new immunotherapy in preclinical studies.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-11-0308

    View details for Web of Science ID 000300987800011

    View details for PubMedID 22135043