Center for Molecular Imaging & Nanotechnology

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Molecular Imaging and Nanotechnology (CMINT) is a broad-scope, multidisciplinary translational research program that unites two rapidly evolving fields — molecular imaging and nanotechnology — by creating strong teams of researchers working in diverse areas such as cancer biology, medicine, chemistry, developmental biology, physics, radiochemistry, immunology, genomics, pharmacology, and engineering.

Our goal is to speed research into the biology of cancers and augment the development of innovative treatments — including molecularly based, image-guided therapies — as well as diagnostic and prognostic tools.

CMINT investigators take a highly pragmatic approach to addressing biologically and clinically relevant problems, with a range of diverse yet interrelated projects. We focus our translational research efforts on innovative ideas and applications that can be tested in preclinical models and eventually phase I clinical trials, and that we believe will ultimately transform routine cancer care.

What Is Molecular Imaging?

Molecular imaging makes it possible to observe and measure biological processes in living cells or tissues over time — without disrupting them — by lighting them up with specific imaging agents. MSK investigators have pioneered the use of molecular imaging methods since the 1990s — including fluorescence imaging, PET, and MRI — to aid laboratory investigations into the root causes of cancer as well as to improve many aspects of cancer care.

The development of molecular imaging technologies has transformed the way cancers are diagnosed, monitored, and treated. A host of promising imaging targets — from disease biomarkers produced by cancer cells to metabolic fluctuations in the tumor microenvironment — have recently emerged and been developed for a variety of imaging modalities. In addition, advances in molecular imaging contribute to improving cancer treatments by optimizing preclinical and clinical testing.

What Is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is the science of matter that measures from one to 100 nanometer dimensions. Nanoscale materials possess unusual physical, chemical, and biological properties that offer new possibilities for improving both the treatment and imaging of cancer.

By controlling particular characteristics of nanomaterials — such as size, shape, charge, surface patterning, and biochemical availability — it is now possible to overcome common barriers to drug delivery, examine nanoparticle interactions with membranes, synthesize and characterize novel nanoparticles for targeted cancer treatment and imaging, and develop minimally invasive probes for cancer detection and diagnosis. The properties of nanomaterials can also be manipulated to enhance the effectiveness of a drug, target it to tumors more directly, or allow it to act simultaneously as both treatment and imaging agent.