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Bio

Honors & Awards


  • Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Fellowship Award, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (2018-2021)
  • First Prize of the Scholarship, Peking University (2010-2012)
  • National Scholarship, Ministry of Education, People's Republic of China (2009)
  • First Prize of the Scholarship/Honor Student, Jilin University (2008)
  • National Endeavor Fellowship, Ministry of Education, People's Republic of China (2007)

Professional Education


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Peking University Health Science Center (2015)

Stanford Advisors


Patents


  • Liyang Cui, Yan Liu, Lirong Teng, Lingjun Meng, Qingfan Meng etc. "China P.Rep. Patent CN 101390958 B Huidouba traditional Chinese medicine composite preparation for treating wound, cut trauma, scald and burn", Jan 20, 2011
  • Liyang Cui, Yan Liu, Lirong Teng, Lingjun Meng, Qingfan Meng etc. "China P.Rep. Patent CN 101390882 Huidouba extract and preparation method and pharmaceutical use", Oct 13, 2010

Research & Scholarship

Lab Affiliations


Teaching

Graduate and Fellowship Programs


Publications

All Publications


  • [18F]-C-SNAT4: an improved caspase-3-sensitive nanoaggregation PET tracer for imaging of tumor responses to chemo- and immunotherapies. European journal of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging Chen, M. n., Chen, Z. n., Castillo, J. B., Cui, L. n., Zhou, K. n., Shen, B. n., Xie, J. n., Chin, F. T., Rao, J. n. 2021

    Abstract

    Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of apoptosis can noninvasively detect cell death in vivo and assist in monitoring tumor response to treatment in patients. While extensive efforts have been devoted to addressing this important need, no apoptosis PET imaging agents have yet been approved for clinical use. This study reports an improved 18F-labeled caspase-sensitive nanoaggregation tracer ([18F]-C-SNAT4) for PET imaging of tumor response to chemo- and immunotherapies in preclinical mouse models.We rationally designed and synthesized a new PET tracer [18F]-C-SNAT4 to detect cell death both in vitro and in vivo. In vitro radiotracer uptake studies were performed on drug-sensitive and -resistant NSCLC cell lines (NCI-H460 and NCI-H1299, respectively) treated with cisplatin at different doses. In vivo therapy response monitoring by [18F]-C-SNAT4 PET imaging was evaluated with two treatment modalities-chemotherapy and immunotherapy in two tumor xenografts in mice. Radiotracer uptake in the tumors was validated ex vivo using ?-counting and cleaved caspase-3 immunofluorescence.This [18F]-C-SNAT4 PET tracer was facilely synthesized and displayed improved serum stability profiles. [18F]-C-SNAT4 cellular update was elevated in NCI-H460 cells in a time- and dose-dependent manner, which correlated well with cell death. A significant increase in [18F]-C-SNAT4 uptake was measured in NCI-H460 tumor xenografts in mice. In contrast, a rapid clearance of [18F]-C-SNAT4 was observed in drug-resistant NCI-H1299 in vitro and in tumor xenografts. Moreover, in BALB/C mice bearing murine colon cancer CT26 tumor xenografts receiving checkpoint inhibitors, [18F]-C-SNAT4 showed its ability for monitoring immunotherapy-induced apoptosis and reporting treatment-responding mice from non-responding.The uptake of [18F]-C-SNAT4 in tumors received chemotherapy and immunotherapy is positively correlated with the tumor apoptotic level and the treatment efficacy. [18F]-C-SNAT4 PET imaging can monitor tumor response to two different treatment modalities and predict the therapeutic efficacy in preclinical mouse models.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00259-021-05297-0

    View details for PubMedID 33712870

  • In vivo imaging of methionine aminopeptidase II for prostate cancer risk stratification. Cancer research Xie, J. n., Rice, M. A., Chen, Z. n., Cheng, Y. n., Hsu, E. C., Chen, M. n., Song, G. n., Cui, L. n., Zhou, K. n., Castillo, J. B., Zhang, C. A., Shen, B. n., Chin, F. T., Kunder, C. A., Brooks, J. D., Stoyanova, T. n., Rao, J. n. 2021

    Abstract

    Prostate cancer is one of the most common malignancies worldwide, yet limited tools exist for prognostic risk stratification of the disease. Identification of new biomarkers representing intrinsic features of malignant transformation and development of prognostic imaging technologies are critical for improving treatment decisions and patient survival. In this study, we analyzed radical prostatectomy specimens from 422 patients with localized disease to define the expression pattern of methionine aminopeptidase II (MetAP2), a cytosolic metalloprotease that has been identified as a druggable target in cancer. MetAP2 was highly expressed in 54% of low-grade and 59% of high-grade cancer. Elevated levels of MetAP2 at diagnosis were associated with shorter time to recurrence. Controlled self-assembly of a synthetic small molecule enabled design of the first MetAP2-activated positron emission tomography (PET) imaging tracer for monitoring MetAP2 activity in vivo. The nanoparticles assembled upon MetAP2 activation were imaged in single prostate cancer cells with post-click fluorescent labeling. The fluorine-18 labeled tracers successfully differentiated MetAP2 activity in both MetAP2 knockdown and inhibitor-treated human prostate cancer xenografts by micro-PET/CT scanning. This highly sensitive imaging technology may provide a new tool for non-invasive early risk stratification of prostate cancer and monitoring the therapeutic effect of MetAP2 inhibitors as anti-cancer drugs.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-20-2969

    View details for PubMedID 33637565

  • Mitochondrial copper depletion suppresses triple-negative breast cancer in mice. Nature biotechnology Cui, L., Gouw, A. M., LaGory, E. L., Guo, S., Attarwala, N., Tang, Y., Qi, J., Chen, Y., Gao, Z., Casey, K. M., Bazhin, A. A., Chen, M., Hu, L., Xie, J., Fang, M., Zhang, C., Zhu, Q., Wang, Z., Giaccia, A. J., Gambhir, S. S., Zhu, W., Felsher, D. W., Pegram, M. D., Goun, E. A., Le, A., Rao, J. 2020

    Abstract

    Depletion of mitochondrial copper, which shifts metabolism from respiration to glycolysis and reduces energy production, is known to be effective against cancer types that depend on oxidative phosphorylation. However, existing copper chelators are too toxic or ineffective for cancer treatment. Here we develop a safe, mitochondria-targeted, copper-depleting nanoparticle (CDN) and test it against triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). We show that CDNs decrease oxygen consumption and oxidative phosphorylation, cause a metabolic switch to glycolysis and reduce ATP production in TNBC cells. This energy deficiency, together with compromised mitochondrial membrane potential and elevated oxidative stress, results in apoptosis. CDNs should be less toxic than existing copper chelators because they favorably deprive copper in the mitochondria in cancer cells instead of systemic depletion. Indeed, we demonstrate low toxicity of CDNs in healthy mice. In three mouse models of TNBC, CDN administration inhibits tumor growth and substantially improves survival. The efficacy and safety of CDNs suggest the potential clinical relevance of this approach.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41587-020-0707-9

    View details for PubMedID 33077961

  • A near-infrared phosphorescent nanoprobe enables quantitative, longitudinal imaging of tumor hypoxia dynamics during radiotherapy. Cancer research Zheng, X., Cui, L., Chen, M., Soto, L. A., Graves, E. E., Rao, J. 2019

    Abstract

    Hypoxia plays a key role in tumor resistance to radiotherapy (RT). It is important to study hypoxia dynamics during RT to improve treatment planning and prognosis. Here, we describe a luminescent nanoprobe, composed of a fluorescent semiconducting polymer and palladium (Pd) complex, for quantitative longitudinal imaging of tumor hypoxia dynamics during RT. The nanoprobe was designed to provide high sensitivity and reversible response for the subtle change in hypoxia over a narrow range (0-30 mmHg O2), which spans the oxygen range where tumors have limited radiosensitivity. Following intravenous administration, the nanoprobe efficiently accumulated in and distributed across the tumor, including the hypoxic region. The ratio between emissions at 700 and 800 nm provided quantitative mapping of hypoxia across the entire tumor. The nanoprobe has been applied to image the tumor hypoxia dynamics over 7 days during fractionated RT, revealing that high fractional dose (10 Gy) was more effective in improving tumor reoxygenation than low dose (2 Gy) and the effect tended to persist longer in smaller or more radiosensitive tumors. Our results also indicated the importance of the reoxygenation efficiency of the first fraction in the prediction of the radiation treatment outcome. In summary, this work has established a new nanoprobe for highly sensitive, quantitative and longitudinal imaging of tumor hypoxia dynamics following RT, and demonstrated its value for assessing the efficacy of RT and radiation treatment planning.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-0530

    View details for PubMedID 31311808

  • Janus Iron Oxides @ Semiconducting Polymer Nanoparticle Tracer for Cell Tracking by Magnetic Particle Imaging NANO LETTERS Song, G., Chen, M., Zhang, Y., Cui, L., Qu, H., Zheng, X., Wintermark, M., Liu, Z., Rao, J. 2018; 18 (1): 182?89

    Abstract

    Iron oxides nanoparticles tailored for magnetic particle imaging (MPI) have been synthesized, and their MPI signal intensity is three-times that of commercial MPI contrast (Ferucarbotran, also called Vivotrax) and seven-times that of MRI contrast (Feraheme) at the same Fe concentration. MPI tailored iron oxide nanoparticles were encapsulated with semiconducting polymers to produce Janus nanoparticles that possessed optical and magnetic properties for MPI and fluorescence imaging. Janus particles were applied to cancer cell labeling and in vivo tracking, and as few as 250 cells were imaged by MPI after implantation, corresponding to an amount of 7.8 ng of Fe. Comparison with MRI and fluorescence imaging further demonstrated the advantages of our Janus particles for MPI-super sensitivity, unlimited tissue penetration, and linear quantitativity.

    View details for PubMedID 29232142

  • Semiconducting polymer nanoparticles as photoacoustic molecular imaging probes WILEY INTERDISCIPLINARY REVIEWS-NANOMEDICINE AND NANOBIOTECHNOLOGY Cui, L., Rao, J. 2017; 9 (2)

    Abstract

    As an emerging class of optical nanomaterials, semiconducting polymer nanoparticles (SPNs) are highly photostable, optically active and versatile in chemistry; these properties make them attractive as molecular imaging agents to enable imaging of biological events and functionalities at multiple scales. More recently, a variety of SPNs have been found to exhibit high photoacoustic properties, and further empowered photoacoustic imaging for contrast enhanced in vivo molecular imaging. Target-sensitive components can be incorporated in the SPNs to create activatable imaging probes to sense and monitor the target dynamics in living objects. Intrinsically biophotonic and biocompatible, SPNs can be further engineered for multimodal imaging and for real-time imaging of drug delivery. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/wnan.1418

    View details for Web of Science ID 000397857100003

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5192001

  • Semiconducting polymer nanoparticles as photoacoustic molecular imaging probes. Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Nanomedicine and nanobiotechnology Cui, L., Rao, J. 2016

    Abstract

    As an emerging class of optical nanomaterials, semiconducting polymer nanoparticles (SPNs) are highly photostable, optically active and versatile in chemistry; these properties make them attractive as molecular imaging agents to enable imaging of biological events and functionalities at multiple scales. More recently, a variety of SPNs have been found to exhibit high photoacoustic properties, and further empowered photoacoustic imaging for contrast enhanced in vivo molecular imaging. Target-sensitive components can be incorporated in the SPNs to create activatable imaging probes to sense and monitor the target dynamics in living objects. Intrinsically biophotonic and biocompatible, SPNs can be further engineered for multimodal imaging and for real-time imaging of drug delivery. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/wnan.1418

    View details for PubMedID 27346564

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5192001

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